The 10th Annual Polar Bear Jump on Saturday raised more than $80,000 for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
When Don Laber was a teen, he fell through the ice while skating and walked home in frozen clothes.
“You ain’t got a brain in your head,” his mother told him.
“She was probably right,” said Laber, 66, recalling the tale for friends before they leaped into icy Turkeyfoot Lake on Saturday for the 10th annual Polar Bear Jump.
The weather wasn’t arctic, but it was close. Stray snowflakes darted in the 27- degree air. The sun hid behind a screen of gray clouds. Ice covered most of the lake.
Approximately 725 polar bears accepted winter’s challenge.
They hopped and plopped and belly-flopped into the water. They flipped and cannonballed. They wore hardhats and bikinis, water wings and Viking helmets, rainbow wigs and hula skirts.
Superman and Wolverine showed up. So did The Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy.
By the time everyone was soaked and shivering, the event had raised at least $80,000 for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, money that will provide some 320,000 meals for hungry people in eight counties, according to organizers.
But why bound into frigid water when you just could write a check?
“Fun. Test yourself. Get out of the house,” said Matt Morrison, 27, of Akron. “It’s wintertime.”
He tossed a football with his cousin, who was one of several polar bears dressed as the Man of Steel.
“I figured what better way for the food bank to save lives than for Superman to jump,” said Jason McCurry, 23, of Atwater, wearing fake blue muscles and a red cape.
Morrison and McCurry had jumped before and knew what to expect when they hit the water.
“You have no breath and you just run for daylight, run for the beach,” McCurry said.
A few yards away, Laber and two friends from the Summit Church in Green were new to the event.
Laber, of Akron, explained he had thought about becoming a polar bear for several years when he saw a flier for this event.
“Want to do this?” he asked his friend, John Vega, 51, of Canton, at church.
“I’ll do it, if you do it,” Vega replied.
Their friend Barry Harris, 45, of Uniontown, also signed up. He is a transplant from Alabama.
“First time in seriously cold water,” Harris confessed.
They jumped from the dock together, wearing shirts with the name of their church.
Laber called his brief dip “invigorating.”
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was a good shock to the system.”