By Wayne Allen
January 5, 2014
Common Staff Writer
A crowd of hearty revelers plunged into the Ohio River on New Year’s Day, as part of the Polar Bear Plunge — now in its 13th year in Portsmouth. Hundreds of spectators lined the bank of the river to watch about 100 people take the plunge into river, to raise money for charity.
The local Polar Bear Plunge started in 2000 when Sam Simon, event organizer and a couple of his friends playfully jumped into the Ohio River next to his home near Sciotoville. After that it became a tradition and grew larger when they moved their activity to Portsmouth in 2004.
In the past, Simon himself has used the Polar Plunge to collect money for the American Legion and the Boy Scouts of America. This years charity was organ donation. At this year’s event, several of the jumpers adorned t-shirts that encouraged participants to become organ donors.
“We had a very enthusiastic crowd this year, the weather was nice and the turnout was phenomenal,” Simon said.
The National Weather Service reported the Ohio being at 38 feet on Wednesday. Simon said that even though the river was higher than in years past it did not stop participants from having a good time.
“I’m extremely happy with our turnout today and I am excited about the awareness we are getting out for organ donation as well,” Simon said. “You could not ask for better than that.”
Among those who jumped into the river was Patricia Dyer of Portsmouth, whom has also been touched by organ donation. Her granddaughter Bridget Johnson is a heart transplant recipient. When asked about the experience of jumping in the river, Dyer said it was cold.
“I was really anticipating a bigger sting, but it really was not that bad,” she said.
This was Dyer’s first year participating, and she did not think it was that big of a deal until she arrived and saw all of the people. Dyer said there were four members of her family that took the plunge on Wednesday.
“My granddaughter is a heart transplant recipient, she’s had her heart for six years,” Dyer said. “I plan on coming back and doing this again, we did this for organ donation awareness because we believe it. It’s apart of our lives.”
Afterwards, some of jumpers were taken back to the Blockhouse for drinks and hot bean soup.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-1151, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.