By Austin Dave / SCVNews.com
Hundreds of brave souls are crossing a new accomplishment off of their bucket lists: They’ve jumped into a 54-degree lake.
More than 140 individuals took part in this year’s Polar Plunge by plunging into the near-frigid waters of Castaic Lake Saturday morning.
“I thought I was crazy,” said Lauren Nales, one of the first participants who plunged into the lake.
In her off-time, Nales works as a coach. “I was scared, but after I did it I saw my atheletes cheering me on and I felt great,” she said.
Plungers worked for weeks and months prior to taking the dive to raise money for a charitable cause. The event is an annual fundraiser held to raise money for athletes who participate in the Special Olympics.
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Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization with a whopping 4 million atheletes in more than 170 countries striving to create an atmosphere of social inclusion for its participants who require special assistance.
By 11 a.m., only an hour into the event, more than $17,000 had been raised.
Daring plungers who signed up to raise funds for the cause seeked donations with a goal of collecting enough money to further the organziation’s quest to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition.
“It’s no cost to the athletes,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Chief Roberta Abner, who also serves one of the event’s directors. Abner says the event encourages inclusion of the participants and their peers, an aspect that promotes the mission of Special Olympics.
The event, held in locations across the country, is one of many feats attempted and succeeded by speed skater and champion snowboarder Marisa Watkins, who supports the Special Olympics as both an athlete and coach.
“It rained last year, so it was colder, but it’s nicer out this year,” Watkins said. “We saw a much larger turnout this year.”
The Plunge, which has been called a “social movement” by promoters, is moving to Big Bear, Calif., on March 10, where weather forecasters are expecting cold temperatures.
“Where there’s cold weather, there’s a group of people jumping for unity,” Watkins said.