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Polar Energy

Winter warriors pump up adrenaline for icy dip in the lake.


As participants wait to take the plunge at today's Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump, many of them keep telling themselves that they're not crazy. That bit of self-assurance may even soften the jolt when they land in the freezing water. "Once you get in, you get that oh-shit! factor. And you immediately think you have to get out of there," says Kelly Pariso, who inaugurated the annual leap five years ago. "But in general, I'd say a cold shower is actually worse than jumping in the water."Easy for him to say. Pariso had been taking dips in ice-cold lakes long before he, his wife, and some neighbors organized the 2003 dip for 72 goose-bumped jumpers. Last year, the number swelled to 127 brave souls, ages 8 to 65, whose entry fees helped raise $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. "We have quite a few people from all over the country show up," says Pariso. "The big difference is that in a typical polar-bear jump, about 1,000 people all run into a lake at the same time. Here, we do it one person at a time, so each person has their own piece of glory." Dive in at 2 this afternoon at Portage Lakes State Park, 5031 Manchester Road in Akron. Fee is $25. Call 330-645-0589 or visit
Sat., Feb. 16, 2 p.m., 2008

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