On December 4-6, 2020, after a year that was difficult in so many ways for so many people, Mont Alto Polar Plunge participants showed up digitally, raising money to help combat childhood cancer.
This 2020 Polar Plunge event was organized into a different format than it has been in previous years. Usually, a large group of people gathers at a lake at a local state park on an early December day to plunge into cold water together after spending months fundraising. Usually, there is music. There is a Nittany Lion mascot. There is a chill in the air and hot chocolate in cups, and there is a vibe.
Dance marathon: ‘For the kids’
In the three years that the Plunge has taken place (including 2020), it has sent nearly $40,000 with the Mont Alto student dance team to benefit THON, an annual Penn State student dance marathon.
The Four Diamonds Foundation then puts THON funds to work by underwriting cancer research and providing support for families coping with pediatric cancer.
“The Polar Plunge has been a staple for the last three years for Mont Alto THON. We are so blessed to have a fantastic alumni chapter that does this all FTK!”Jacie Buller, senior and Penn State Mont Alto Dance Marathon Committee Co-chair
Plunge alumni and student collaborators knew that they could not safely plan the same kind of event in 2020.
A bridging event was organized as a means of doing something instead of nothing. Students and alumni and members of the community fundraised by committing to do bucket-style “Personal” Polar Plunge videos to share in social media channels the weekend of December 4-6.
Winter weather arrived just in time to make the ice water in the buckets even chillier. Videos shared by participants and the Plunge that weekend aren’t just fun. They demonstrate the deep level of passion participants cultivate for this cause.
A pandemic brought changes
Penn State Mont Alto Dance Marathon Committee Co-chair, junior Sarah McElwain, observes:
“The efforts of the Polar Plunge exemplifies the strength of not only our THON community but our Penn State community as well. It’s the support from our community and alumni that makes us so successful in raising funds For The Kids!”
Event coordinators also changed their invitation to local businesses with track records for supporting the annual Polar Plunge; in light of the fact that 2020 had been financially difficult for many businesses. Rather than asking for sponsors among these supporters, Plunge planners invited them to participate.
In response to this invitation, several businesses encouraged employees to create teams to compete for the most money raised.
“It was awesome to see friends, community, and colleagues fundraise for THON in this much different format. I am very proud of our alma mater for continuing its effort to support THON despite the difficulties we all face during the pandemic.”Mont Alto Alumni Society Board of Directors President, Jake Schrom
AJ Stambaugh, Plunge event committee chair, is amazed by the passion and hard work of the participants and community:
“Even in the midst of a pandemic where many are facing economic hardships, the generosity of donors poured in once again to support a great cause!”
Planning ahead for 2021
There may be an in-person event this December. There is a plan in place for a 2021 Mont Alto Polar Plunge.
Penn State Mont Alto THON dance committee students, the Penn State Alumni Association Franklin County Chapter, and the Mont Alto Alumni Society, sponsors for the event, hope to pull it off Dec. 5.
Regardless, a “Personal” Polar Plunge component could well be on its way to becoming part of the tradition. It will target alumni and friends who can’t make it back to the lake; allowing them to continue to participate in a meaningful way. For the kids.