COVENTRY TWP. With a goal of raising $150,000 for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club is set to welcome jumpers to the 14th annual Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The event will be held at the beach at Portage Lakes State Park.
Heather Pariso, who founded the club with her husband, Kelly Pariso, said the club has a five-member board that decides which local charity benefits from the donations. This year, the Akron-Canton Foodbank will be the recipient of 100 percent of the funds raised.
In 2016, the event raised $110,000 in donations which benefitted the Ronald McDonald House and other local charities, including Akron Children’s Hospital. Past events also benefitted Camp Quality Ohio, which was previously held at Craftsmen's Park in Portage Lakes, but now held at Mohican State Park near Mansfield.
President & CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank Dan Flowers has challenged community leaders and businesses to participate in the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump. Flowers won't just be a spectator as he will be among those jumping into the frigid waters of Portage Lakes.
The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is a non-profit organization with a vision of a thriving community free of hunger. This year, one in seven people in Northeast Ohio will face hunger, and the Foodbank will be there to help. The Foodbank is the source of emergency food for nearly 500 food pantries, hot meal sites shelters and other hunger-relief programs that directly serve individuals and families in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
Every dollar that is donated feeds four families.
"Each day, the Foodbank is distributing approximately 110,000 pounds of food to its network of partners, hunger-relief programs like food pantries and hot meal sites," Flowers said. "This jump and your support make it possible to continue to reach the magnitude of community members we do. We feel so fortunate to be able to partner with those in our community in this cause, and we sincerely thank the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club for the opportunity to jump together in support of those in need."
During last year’s Polar Bear Jump, thousands of spectators came to support the 800 jumpers becoming ‘polar bears’ by plunging into the icy Portage Lakes, Pariso said.
"The event has grown every year," she said. "It is supposed to be 56 degrees on Saturday, Feb. 18. Our coldest year was 8 degrees below in our fourth year of the event."
Here’s how you can get involved:
- Want to jump? Visit portagelakespolarbearclub.com and download the jumper information packet.
- Want to support the event? To donate funds to support all the brave individuals jumping, visit portagelakespolarbearclub.com.
"I invite our community leaders, friends of the Foodbank, and anyone who is willing to join the Foodbank and the Polar Bear Club in the fight to end hunger," said Flowers. "Join our team, and help us in our quest to freeze the body, warm the heart and feed those in need."
So far, community businesses like Kisling, Nestico & Redick, FirstEnergy, Buehler’s Fresh Foods, Ameriprise Financial, Beach Boyz Entertainment, GOJO Industries, Akron General Orthopedics and Bober, Markey, Fedorovich & Co. have stepped up to the challenge and signed up to jump.
For more information about the Polar Bear Jump and how you can get involved, visit portagelakespolarbearclub.com or call 330-535-6900.