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Polar Plunge Dives Into the Kokosing for a Good Cause

Polar Plunge Dives Into the Kokosing for a Good Cause

By Eric Geller

This Saturday’s third annual Polar Plunge will allow Kenyon students to support a good cause while also testing their cold-weather fortitude. From 12:00 to 2:30 p.m., Beer and Sex advisors will take donations for the Kno-Ho-Co program while they brace themselves and leap into the Kokosing River’s chilly water. The Kno-Ho-Co Ashland Community Action Commission is a local group that provides healthcare products and housing opportunities to residents of the nearest four counties.

The first Polar Plunge took place in December 2009, when Beer and Sex advisors Brandon Bollinger ’11 and Eric Lewis ’10 brought the idea of a winter river-dive for charity to the group. Bollinger and Lewis checked with the Kenyon Health and Counseling Center and got its approval, according to Polar Plunge Co-President Caroline Black ‘12. The inaugural Plunge quickly came together and was really successful, Black said.

Turnout in 2010 was lower because the Plunge took place the weekend before finals. Organizers made the decision to hold the Plunge in December because of concerns that in later winter months, the river would be too cold. This year, Black and her fellow planners confirmed with the Health Center that the event could proceed in February as long as the temperature was above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Black said the Kno-Ho-Co program – which serves Knox, Holmes, Coshocton and Ashland counties – is a “valuable resource” for Kenyon students and community members alike. With Kenyon’s Health Center closed over the weekend, Kno-Ho-Co is an alternative option for students with health concerns. The community program also sells hormonal birth control for less than the Health Center (around $5 per month). Black said that by promoting Kno-Ho-Co, Beer and Sex will be able to help those outside of the Kenyon community.

“We’re supporting sexual health in the community as well as at Kenyon,” Black said.

Sarah Blair Jenkins ’13, who dove into the Polar Plunge last year as a facilitator and now serves as the event co-president, applauded Kno-Ho-Co for reaching out to people who might not always be able to afford its services. She also pointed out that the organization’s safe-sex education work aligns well with Beer and Sex’s goals. In addition, Kno-Ho-Co is “really familiar with [Beer and Sex’s] program,” she said, and it tailors its use of Kenyon donations accordingly. Jenkins stressed that Kenyon’s support of Kno-Ho-Co should remind students of the important links between Gambier and the rest of Knox County. “It is really good to give back,” she said.

Black said Kno-Ho-Co’s response to the annual fundraiser has been positive.

“They’ve been very appreciative,” Black said. “We were the first group [at Kenyon] to ever raise money for them.”

Kno-Ho-Co Health Services Administrator Kelly Baldwin meets each year with Beer and Sex advisors to provide health tips and information they can share with first years during new student orientation.

Black said she expects substantial turnout this year, partly because she and her fellow organizers sold 115 Plunge t-shirts (at $12 each) while promoting the event. The College Township Fire Department will shuttle participants to and from the event site – the bridge at the corner of OH-229 and Laymon Road – while the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) will open its nearby house and supply hot beverages to freezing participants. Jenkins encouraged students to participate in the Polar Plunge.

“[The Plunge is] three hours of people doing something totally outside their comfort zone, knowing that it’s supporting something awesome,” Jenkins said.

Sometimes, she said, professors attend the event to cheer on participants or to announce the proceedings like sports commentators. Staff members from the Counseling Center also drop by.

“It gets your circulation going,” Black said. “It’s just fun to watch people make fools of themselves for a good cause.”

At the end of each Polar Plunge, the entire group of around 25 Beer and Sex advisors runs into the water together. Jenkins called it a bonding moment.

“It’s not something that happens every day,” she said.

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