Frozen Leap: Jumping into ice-cold Ford Lake to benefit the homeless
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What makes normally rational adults paint themselves or dress in costumes and jump into a frigid lake on a really cold February day?
The fourth annual Ford Lake Frozen Leap, of course.
The Ypsilanti Township event took place from mid-morning into the afternoon Saturday and will benefit SOS Community Services. This year's goal is to raise $10,000.
"Our main goal is, and always has been to make a positive impact on our local community," said Bilal Saeed, one of the founders of the event. Saeed works for a company called Pakmode in Ypsilanti, which specializes in media, marketing and event planning.
"We wanted to do something different and fun to encourage the youth of our community to give back," said Jennifer Radziszewski, who works with Lake Shore Apartments, which has more than 1,000 homes by Ford Lake and its own Frozen Leap team. Radziszewski is also one of the founders of the event.
During the last three years, more than $15,000 has been raised by the Frozen Leap.
On Saturday, at least 60 jumpers took the plunge, including Eastern Michigan University student Joel Diaz, an experienced participant.
"I'm on a team called 'Lions, tigers, and bears oh my' with Detroiters and one person from Chicago," said Diaz. "It seems like you stay in the water longer than you actually do.
"You jump in and kick hard to come back up and swim fast because the water is way colder than the air."
John Sullivan, jumping up and down to stay warm as the wind chill reached negative numbers, was psyching himself into making his leap into the lake.
"This is beautiful weather!" he said. "I'm picturing beaches and daiquiris."
Three members of Saline High School's crew team were huddled together, scantily clad under a blanket, anticipating their lake jumps.
"We row on this lake," said Ben Friman.
"I'm looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment," said Sarah Buckeridge.
With her whole body shaking, crew member Katie Stimac said, "I'm looking forward to getting it over with!"
When a jumper exits the water, someone covers him or her with a blanket, and then the jumper enters a tent where they find warm water, a towel and another blanket.
Jumpers bring a change of clothes, which they put on in the heated tent.
Members of the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department, the Washtenaw County Hazmat Response Team, and members of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's dive team were all on hand.
"The contribution from this event will help us to feed more hungry children, provide shelter to homeless families and other supportive services," said Chelsea Clark from SOS Community Services.
Clark says SOS is housing 62 families and serving an average of 75 families on food distribution day.
Beezy's and Buffalo Wild Wings, Simply Delicious Catering, CreateMyTee.com, The Blanket Express, David Fantera, Daytona Construction, Erie Investments, and Bank of Ann Arbor and Community Driven Credit Union all donated to this year's Ford Lake Frozen Leap.