by Paul Rignell
More than 60 people braved the chill of Lake Orono last weekend to spite the winter season while also raising funds for local food shelves and other nonprofit causes.
For the seventh annual Shiver Elk River plunge into the lake, each jumper paid a $35 registration fee that they could designate for a favorite nonprofit.
Debbi Rydberg, executive director for the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce, which coordinated the annual plunge and many related Shiver festivities, said 40 people preregistered for the plunge online where they were encouraged to seek extra pledges from non-jumping friends to further support their chosen causes.
Rydberg said she was impressed that more than 20 surprise guests approached the registration booth at Orono Park that day, each armed with $35 and the spirit to jump in a freezing lake.
“The weather was great for being outside in February,” she said, noting several adaptations were necessary but not spoilers. “We’re Minnesotans. We know how to adapt.”
A hockey tournament became a shootout. A horse-drawn sleigh added wheels. And the National Wildlife Refuge brought out snowshoes.
Returning plungers included Patrick Brady, visiting from St. Francis, who works locally at Tractor Supply in Elk River and has volunteered for the Ruff Start animal rescue program. He was at Orono Park to take his third Shiver plunge for Ruff Start Rescue.
Brady has plunged two other times in White Bear Lake to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics. “It’s nice, clean, friendly fun,” he said of this wintertime activity that can seem like an acquired taste. “It’s fun to see people out in the community and to raise a lot of money all at one time.”
The list of participating plungers Feb. 11 also included several first-time jumpers, many of whom built up their courage to conquer the cold water along with friends that were making debut plunges.
After their plunge, Michelle Brandt, Laura Iversen and Trisha Mowry noted that they work together at Metal Craft in Elk River and they had made the icy jump to benefit Rivers of Hope, which offers support services for victims of domestic violence.
“We were all nervous” about the jump, said Mowry.
Brandt described feelings of “anxious excitement” before the plunge. Would the three women come back to “Shiver” again next winter?
“Absolutely,” said Iversen. “Now I know what to expect.”
Among the other causes plungers raised money for were the Humane Society, Community Aid Elk River, Flight Expo, Sherburne County Area United Way, Thumbs Up High 5K (for PTSD in first responders), the Veterans Educational Historic Monument at Camp Ripley Cemetery, the Elk River YMCA, Moebius Syndrome Foundation and the Isaac Inititiative.
The plunges began at 3 p.m., after a buzz had grown earlier in the day throughout the park due in part to family and children’s activities that were hosted by staff and volunteers representing nonprofit causes.
The games and carnival atmosphere were new for the Shiver event.
Carmen Pouliot, executive director for the Community Aid Elk River food program, welcomed children to play a game at her nonprofit booth. She was also ready to share details about area hunger with all visiting families.
She took the plunge last year to raise funds for CAER, and she said she was glad to stay dry this year while cheering for other CAER supporters who were making the jump. Would she ever agree to another plunge? “I guess I’d say never say never,” Pouliot said.
Rydberg said the weekend’s mild temperatures shortened some Shiver events, such as an annual hockey tournament at the Handke pit that a MidWestOne Bank team won in a playoff shootout.
The warmer weather seemed to boost interest and attendance for other events. Rydberg noted that the weekend’s annual 5K and 10K morning runs drew a record number of participants at nearly 100 people.
Also, a second annual bean bag tournament under an Orono Park shelter, sponsored this year by Boondox Bar and Grille, drew an impressive 16 registered teams.