WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – Part of Oglebay’s Winterfest is the annual polar plunge, where the bravest and warmest hearts raised over $9,000 this year for the Special Olympics of West Virginia to, in turn, plunge into the frigid Schenk Lake. 

The costume contest is a tradition to add an element of fun to the freeze. 

One jumper who showed she doesn’t get cold feet is Leasa Hart, who has been plunging into the freezing cold water for 10 years and has raised over $6,000 for this organization. 

”The coldest part honestly is not when you’re in the water, it’s when you get out and you’re heading up to where you’re going to change and get changed into the warm clothes. That is the coldest part. We believe in the spirit of the athletes and promoting any opportunity we can for them. You just see the light in their eyes and how happy they are to be there. It’s worth a plunge in the water.”

Leasa Hart – Parkersburg, WV

Among the many jumpers included representation from WTRF, as well.

Take it from me, [7News reporter Baylee Martin] that the worst part was the walk from the water to the heating station, which took the polar right out of the plunge, but the heartwarming feeling you got from knowing you were supporting a good cause was enough warmth to make it so worth it.

Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration’s heater and changing rooms combined with the cause drew in jumpers from across the nation as director Andy Brown explains. 

”These are all over. It says a lot when they come here to Wheeling to jump, so we’re thrilled with what we have and I mean, it says a lot when you have a full changing trailer and everything that Panhandle donated. It’s just a fantastic event.”

Andy Brown – Director of Special Events & Programming, Oglebay

Jumpers are “Freezing for a Reason” with the Special Olympics of West Virginia, which provides those with intellectual and physical disabilities opportunities with 18 different sports to participate in cost free. 

”It’s not an easy thing to do to go into that cold lake, and they do it and I think they have a good heart behind their efforts. What they are doing today is going to have lasting value for our Special Olympians, so what they did today – we’ll still see the impact months from now – So, again, thank you to everyone that took the plunge today.”

John Corbett – CEO, Special Olympics West Virginia

As 7News reporter Baylee Martin can attest to, the temperatures are cold, but the hearts are so warm.