ASHLAND -- 2020 is right around the corner and with that comes the annual Polar Bear Dip Cold for a Cure; a staple tradition in Ashland County.
Each year, community members of all ages line the shore of Charles Mill Lake prepping themselves to enter the frigid waters.
Why would someone voluntarily face the numbing conditions that accompany entering a lake with below-freezing temperatures?
It's actually for a great cause.
The Polar Bear Dip Cold for a Cure raises funds to fight against cancer; a turmoil that inevitably has an imprint on every individual's life. Half of the donations collected at the event are given to the American Cancer Society, while the other half is given to Fight Colorectal Cancer.
Started in 2007, this year marks the 14th year that the Polar Bear Dip Cold for a Cure event will occur. Sheila and Chad Schrack of Ashland crafted the event to raise awareness after Sheila was diagnosed with cancer the year prior.
“I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 and we got involved with Relay for Life," said Sheila Schrack. "We were trying to think of fundraiser ideas and my husband came up with the Polar Bear Dip."
There is not cost to attend the event, but community members will be given the opportunity to donate.
Although submerging into frosty waters is quite the challenge, Chad Schrack has done it on multiple occasions.
“I participate every year," said Chad Schrack. "My daughter has jumped in and so has my son – not every year, but I talk them into it every now and then.
"We’re just trying to raise as much awareness and let people with cancer, people battling cancer and people who’ve lost someone to cancer that we’re out there and trying to do what we can."
The Polar Bear Dip Cold for a Cure will take place at 3 p.m. at Charles Mill Lake on New Years Day.
Several of people attend each year, so it's recommended to arrive atleast 20 minutes prior to the start of the event. Specators are welcome.
“The first year we had about 35 people jump in," said Chad Schrack. "Now, we get between 150 to 200 of them each year.
"We usually get up to 500 people that come just to watch.”
In addition to the dip itself, other activities will occur at the event as well.
“We’ll be selling T-shirts for $25," said Sheila Schrack. "We’ll have a fire going to keep everyone warm.
"We’ll also have a DJ from Green Clover Entertainment to get things started.”
An Ashland County Relay for Life team called Ripple Effect will be selling hot chocolate.
It is also advised that participants wear shoes instead of flipflops or going barefoot. However, costumes and other fun clothing are not an uncommon sight.
The Polar Bear Dip Cold for a Cure event is focused on providing not only a fun and memorable experience, but also strives to keep their participants safe.
“We have the Ashland County Sheriff Department’s dive team and the Mifflin Charles Mill Lake’s dive team out in dry suits to keep an out on everything," said Chad Schrack. "The Mifflin Fire and Rescue will be there on standby too.”
Weather for Wednesday is looking cloudy and chilly, but with temperatures staying above freezing. Those under 18 years of age need to have a guardian present.
“We really want to thank the community for 14 years of support," said Sheila Schrack. "We couldn’t be happier.”