JACKSON TWP. The annual Polar Bear Plunge is scheduled for Feb. 8 at Lake Cable in Jackson Township. The fundraising event was started by the Jackson Local Schools Foundation (JLSF) as a shared fundraising opportunity for multiple groups while also raising funds for the JLSF.  The Foundation shares the profits from this event with all local groups who are brave enough to take the plunge for their cause.

All Foundation funds are used to enhance educational opportunities for the students of Jackson Local Schools. Two of the groups that make it a safe event every year include the Jackson Township Police Department and the Jackson Township Water Rescue and Fire Department.

“This event is similar to Friday night football games,” JLSF Vice President and plunge coordinator Justin Hardesty said. “You have a rush of people trying to get to the beginning of an event and then they all exit around the same time. Our partnership with the Jackson Police Department keeps our jumpers, spectators and others moving about Jackson Township in a safe manner.

“While thousands of people across the country participate in Polar Bear Plunges and have a good time, with something like this, you can never be too safe. The partnership with our Jackson Fire Department is invaluable. Not only are first responders at the event, they put personnel in the water in case a participant becomes distressed.”

In addition to the police and fire departments, the township’s parks department provides logistical support at the event site.  For example, they provide barriers and bleachers.

“The trustees and fiscal officer shows us tremendous support by meeting with us to discuss issues so the event can be a success,” Hardesty said. “They are the key to a great partnership between your local government and your local school.”

JLFS started the plunge because it was seeking out a signature event and Foundation President Jim Camp had the idea which ties in with Jackson’s school mascot.

This is the fourth year. Each year, the group has increased the number of jumpers by around 50. In 2019 there were 350 jumpers. Officials are hoping to have 400 this year.

“We believe what we have created with this event is something rather unique,” Hardesty said. “A 50/50 partnership between the Jackson Local Schools Foundation and any other non-profit, booster club or non-school affiliated group. The Foundation bears the expense and responsibility for the event.  If we did not have the support of the safety forces at the event, it just could not happen.”

He added that there are several other groups that the Foundation couldn’t do the event without their help every year including the following:

• Koala Kruizers: Which provides safe transportation from the overflow parking areas.

• Boy Scouts: They assist with the raising of the flag ceremony at the beginning of the event and assist with directing traffic in the parking area and provide event clean-up services at the end.

• Get Down Sound: Provides professional DJ and MC services.

• Lake Cable Recreation Association: Without being able to use Lake Cable, there would not be a plunge.

Hardesty said groups thinking about jumping can form a team and solicit donations through the event website at jacksonpolarbearplunge.org. Fifty percent of the donations raised go to the non-profit of that team's choosing and 50 percent remains with the Jackson Local Schools Foundation.

If a team is a non-profit, for example a sports booster group, they can raise money for the non-profit. If the team is a group of fellow employees at a business, and are jumping and raise money for cancer research, sign-up the team as supporting cancer research.

Each team then goes out and raises donations, all through the tools on the event’s website. After the event, the money raised gets totaled and 50 percent will go to the charity which was chosen.

“We welcome any individuals or groups who would like to have all 100 percent to go to the Foundation,” Hardesty said. “If any groups have any questions for this year or next on how to work with us, please go to our website and go to the ‘Contact Us’ tab.  We will answer email questions, phone questions and will come and meet with your group to explain in greater detail how the event works. If this year is coming up too quickly, our Plunge next year is Feb. 13.”

Photos by Patricia Faulhaber

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The water rescue team from the Jackson Township Fire Department break up the ice to make room for the many groups to take the plunge at the annual Jackson Polar Bear Plunge during the 2019 Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Cable.