Polar Plop

The 39-degree Lake Erie water is beyond cold — it's pain in liquid form. "To just walk in and have that water come up an inch at a time," says Polar Bear Plunger Jack Loparo, "it was torture." Last New Year's Day, as giggling teenagers whisked by the first-time participant screaming, "Oh my God, why did I do this?" the 69-year-old toed into the chilly Huntington Beach surf to help raise $19,000 for Rescuing the Perishing, a nonprofit that feeds the homeless. Once waist-deep, Loparo took a breathtaking dive underwater then beelined for a warm blanket. The Jan. 1 plunge (also undertaken later in the day by the Cleveland Triathlon Club) started with a challenge by Christ the King Church pastor Dwight Seletzky in 2003: If churchgoers raised $200 for Rescuing, he would jump in Lake Erie. Each year, Seletzky claims he's done. "And then, every year, he goes in," Loparo says. 11 a.m., 28649 Lake Road, Bay Village

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