ITHACA, N.Y. – More than 300 people braved the cold waters of Cayuga Lake on Saturday, March 23 at the Sixth Annual Ithaca Polar Plunge, raising more than $40,000 to support local Special Olympics athletes.

The yearly event at Taughannock Falls State Park sends teams and individuals into the icy water in exchange for donations. Several local law enforcement agencies participate, including New York State Police, the Ithaca Police Department and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office. New York State Park Police topped the fundraising chart with almost $4,000 collected.

IPD Sergeant Barry Banfield said the dip is cold but exhilarating. Banfield is on the New York committee of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, an organization that supports Special Olympics athletes. “This is one of many things that we do with the athletes to try to raise money and awareness for them so they don’t need to pay a dime to go compete in the games,” he said.

Related: Taking the plunge to support Special Olympics athletes

Local athletes Kinsey Henry and Cassie Taber competed last week at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Cassandra Rucker, director of development at Special Olympics New York, thanked law enforcement, local businesses and community leaders for participating in the plunge. “We are so blessed, the Ithaca community has supported us right from the beginning,” she said. “The Ithaca community has always been warm and welcoming to Special Olympics.”

Video by Jacob Mroczek/The Ithaca Voice

Jacob Mroczek

Jacob is a videographer & digital media contributor for The Ithaca Voice.