It was below freezing at this year’s Polar Plunge, but you wouldn’t know it from more than $10,000 that was raised and the heartwarming wishes sent to a teen struggling with cancer.
“We raise money for local people that need it and this family sure does need it,” said Chris Starbuck, shivering after having taken the plunge for Wellington ninth-grader Landry Cole. “It’s amazing to see the turnout that came out and it’s such an adrenalin rush to know that the money is going for a good cause. It’s indescribable.”
Some were too cold to talk after taking the plunge Sunday, when they walked, waded, and swam through the pond outside Tami Ortner and Stanley Waite’s home on West Road.
This is the fifth year the Wellington Eagles held the fundraising event and this time all proceeds will go to Cole, who is recovering from brain cancer. She now has complicated endocrine issues that make it hard to keep her body’s physiology in balance and put her at risk of dangerous seizures.
A year ago, she was a relatively carefree teen.
Then cancer struck. In the past year she’s had two surgeries to remove tumors, lost her vision, and suffered a stroke.
While doctors say she is now tumor-free, Cole is dealing with other medical issues that require constant blood monitoring of fluctuating hormone levels.
Her family wants to purchase an iStat, which could help track her blood levels. The device costs $6,500. The device will make it easier for Cole to go back to school for a few hours several days a week starting Jan. 25.
Starbuck and others have been planning the event for weeks. Nearly 80 businesses and people in town sponsored the event for $50. Others paid $25 to take the plunge for this year’s event which was called “Freezin’ for a Reason.”
“Nearly everyone in town gave something,” said Bill Schramm, charity committee chairman. “It was incredible.”
It was freezing out — below freezing actually. The temperature was a chilly 27 degrees Farenheit, a light snow was falling, and the pond was covered with ice four inches thick.
A swath was cut for about 75 people to ford. Wellington firefighters and the South Lorain County Ambulance District were on hand to assist. Firefighters were in the water with special ice protection gear.
But the hardy fundraisers braved the elements in swim suits, T-shirts, and shorts. Some even wore homemade mumus made of bed sheets. Cole was nearby, staying warm inside the family’s truck.
“It’s important because she’s a little girl, just 15 years old, who a year ago had a normal life and today she has so many problems that are just unfathomable,” Schramm said. “One of our mottos for the Eagles is, ‘People helping people.’ That’s what we do.”
“This is amazing,” said Heather Cole, Landry’s mom, who watched the event. “This is what keeps us going: the support, the prayers, the smiles, and the hugs. These people keep us moving and give us hope. You can’t ask for more.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
A crowd of nearly 100 get ready to take the Wellington Eagles’ 5th Annual Polar Plunge to benefit Landry Cole, a Wellington teen battling cancer.