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Taking the Icy Plunge

Splashin' with Compassion


The Polar Bear Plunge is known for people swimming in frigid waters during the winter. The people, who take the plunge, demonstrate their ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Montage Mountain in Scranton gave some brave souls the chance to test their endurance to the cold at an event called Splashin' with Compassion aka Scranton's first polar plunge. It was held on Saturday February 1 from 9:30am to 3:30pm.

Taking the Icy Plunge-slide0
Ben Freda
Two people feeling the cold after jumping in the frigid pool.
Ben Freda

Splashin' with Compassion was a fundraiser in honor of Scranton resident Shannon McDonough, who passed away of colon cancer in 2009. The event was free, but people taking the plunge paid $35. Proceeds benefit cancer patients in Scranton. So, not only did the plungers dove into the icy waters for fun, they were doing it for a good cause as well. They plunged at the whitewater harbor at the base of the Alpine Run Waterslide Complex.

The whitewater harbor was filled with both skiers and plungers. The skiers passing by stopped to take a look at the 3-ft-deep swimming pool, where the plungers jumped in the water. The radio station 105 the River was present providing music through a stereo. A remote-controlled jet hovered over the pool to record an aerial view of the event. Lifeguards stood by with a rescue pole.

The event kicked off with a singing of the national anthem by Shannon's friends Sarah Opshinsky and Stephanie Povoromo. Then, the DJ called the plungers to the pool. Everyone else surrounding the pool shouted a 10-second countdown right before the plungers dived into the pool. The plungers not only had to dive in but also search and retrieve little items, which were underwater on the pool's floor. Therefore, the divers had no choice but to go under the freezing water. Some of the divers were shivering. Some were unphased. Once they found the item, they immediately had to walk out of the pool.

After the first plunge, Shannon's sister Shawn McDonough spoke a few words about the good deeds Shannon and her friends did and are still doing. Later, Shannon's oncologist Dr. Lisa Thomas also spoke at the event.

This event continued with more plungers diving in the pool. Each team of either two, three, or four, was called to the pool in 10-minute intervals. Some of the divers were dressed in costume for a costume contest. There were two plungers, who dived together, dressed as superheroes: Batman and Green Lantern. There was also a woman in a mermaid costume. As chilly as they were, they seemed to have fun.

Near the pool, there was a tent with raffle baskets under it. Among the raffle baskets, there was a sled of cheer raffle, which included many brands of bottled beer. The prizes in the silent auction included: A Day at the Spa for your car provided by Toyota Scion of Scranton; a laser whitening package provided by Century Dental; one night accommodation (with breakfast) at the Hilton hotel in Scranton and $50 to PJ's Pub.

The Satellite Bar had specials on Miller Lite, fireball shots, adult hot chocolate, and Irish coffee.

The fun wasn't just outside. There was stuff for kids inside the lodge. Kids had their own table with McDonald's toys and coloring books. Some of the children got their faces painted

Also inside the lodge, there were healthcare vendors promoting their services with free brochures, pamphlets, and door hangers. One of them was the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which had door hangers about breast cancer self-awareness and a brochure about how to take care of oneself. There were also brochures for FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer) Empowerment, which is a non-profit organization for women whose family history puts them at risk for breast or ovarian cancer. Their brochure offered programs, such as webinars and outreach groups.

Other healthcare vendors included: Camera for a Cure, Children's Support Group, Lung Cancer Alliance, Waverly Wellness House, Ostomy Support Group, and The Commonwealth Medical College.

The "12 Pack" is Shannon McDonough and 11 of her friends: Stephanie Schofield, Kayley Noon, Sheri Jordan, Christa Chmil, Wendy Egan, Katie Rosencrans, Brittney Lee, Andria Blanchard, Megan Charles, Leigh Zaleski, and Erica McCormick. Together, they designed and sold T-shirts at the St. Patrick's Day Festival in downtown Scranton. Proceeds from the T-shirts were donated to fund treatment for patients battling cancer in Northeast PA. Stephanie Schofield was given a non-profit card, and they became a non-profit organization called "Friends of Shannon McDonough". Stephanie's brother, Pat Schofield, talks to Dr. Lisa Thomas to look for more cancer patients to raise funds for.

Friends and family members are proud of Shannon McDonough and her friends for their selfless acts.

"I'm proud of my daughter," said Betty Ann McDonough. "She's still helping people. Even when she found out she was dying, she still wanted to be in the Make-A-Wish Foundation."

With God's help, Friends of Shannon McDonough will hopefully continue to save lives of cancer patients. They will continue to raise funds at the St. Patrick's Day Festival and maybe will have another Polar Plunge next year.

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