When was the last time you put on a swim suit and jumped into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan in the middle of goddamn winter? For us here in Stoneboatlandia, it has been almost one year to the day. Yes, my friends, it is time once again for our annual Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser. (Donate here.) Let me say right away that I, Poetry and Arts Editor Lisa Vihos, do not go in the water. I leave that to the professionals. I have carried towels, blankets, and hot chocolate. I provide the warming house because I live near the lake. I just don't go in.
Did you know that the Polar Bear Plunge happens all over the world, under a variety of different names? Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, anyplace where there is cold water in large quantity, people are apparently eager to jump into it for a good cause. In many places, plunges are held specifically to raise funds for charities. For example, in Long Beach, New York, the fun happens on Super Bowl Sunday, when about 2,000 people jump into the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Plungapalooza” happens in Maryland at Sandy Point State Park and is the largest plunge event in the United States. In 2007, that particular plunge had 7,400 participants and raised $2.2 million for the Special Olympics.
2.2. Million. Dollars. You see? We at Stoneboat are right in step with some of the most lucrative, grassroots fundraising efforts on the planet, all because Stoneboat founder and Co-Editor in Chief Rob Pockat had the brilliant (or crazy) idea, just a few days before the 2014 plunge, that he’d read a poem in the icy lake on New Year’s Day if he could raise a mere $50 for the journal. We were all dumbfounded when the donations began pouring in and the goal amount was reached in just an hour or two. Rob then convinced Co-Editor in Chief Signe Jorgenson to sweeten the pot by making the bold offer that if the donations reached a certain level, she would go in, too. Perhaps she did not expect such great response. But, money was raised, and in they both went. Talk about dedication!
In the Netherlands, there are 89 beaches across the country that host plunges on New Year's Day. There, the event is called "Nieuwjaarsduik" (New Year's Dive). In the UK, the event is called "Loony Dook" and happens in South Queensferry, Scotland. Don't let the word "south" fool you. It is f'n freezing, I'm sure. In the Northwest Territories of Canada, an event is held in March and is called "Freezin for a Reason." How poetic is that?
Whatever you call it, I'll tell you one thing: it is amazing what Signe and Rob are prepared to do to keep our little boat afloat. Please click here to make this ass-freezing adventure worthwhile for them and for all the prose writers, poets, and artists who will warm the pages of Stoneboat in the coming year. On behalf of all of them, I say a heartfelt thank you.