San Martians take chilly river dip for charity

By: 

News Reporter
Students jump into the San Marcos River at Sewell Park Feb. 28. for the annual Polar Bear Plunge put on by the Veterans Association.

Students, families and veterans braved cold, damp weather Saturday to participate in a Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser.

More than 80 people showed from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to jump into the San Marcos River at Sewell Park. The plunge was hosted by the Texas State Army ROTC and benefited the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Seguin chapter with $934 in donations.

This year's plunge took place in much chillier conditions than last, said Cadet James Hutch, exercise and sports science senior at Texas State.

The river remained a predictable 72 degrees, Hutch said.

Hutch, who helped organize the previous year's plunge, worried low temperatures and overcast skies might hurt this year’s fundraiser, he said. Hutch and other ROTC cadets enjoyed warm, sunny weather and raised over $2,700 last year, he said.

Cadets took $20 donations for each plunger and sold $1 raffle tickets on the side, Hutch said.

Participants received a T-shirt, a hot slice of pizza and a warm thank you from the cadets, he said.

Lindsay Harrison and Casey Welch, special education seniors first timer plungers, came to jump out of curiosity, they said.

It seemed like a really cool idea, Harrison said.

Welch and Harrison were surprised by the warmth of the river and after jumping, stayed in the river to swim for a few minutes.

Harrison said getting out of the water was the coldest part of the experience.

"The water felt good," Harrison said. "It's brutal outside getting dressed."

Jeff Helgeson, assistant history professor, and his wife originally planned on taking the plunge alone, he said.

The couple was surprised when their three children also decided to make the jump, Helgeson said.

Helgeson said his family wanted to show their appreciation for veterans.

Fundraising events such as the Polar Bear Plunge, are important for the DAV, said Marlin Howze, DAV District Commander.

The organization relies on the philanthropic efforts of ROTC chapters to fund numerous veterans' services, he said.

"We don't have bingo or canteens to raise money like some of the other organizations do," Howze said.

The DAV helps file claims for benefits, provides legal counsel and educates veterans obtain the services and assistance they deserve, Howze said.

Bernard Glowinkski, a lifetime DAV member and Navy veteran, participated to help support the organization.

Glowinski served in the Navy from 1982 to 1986 as a jet mechanic aboard the U.S.S. America and U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carriers.

Glowinski earned combat ribbons for his service in Grenada, Lebanon and the Suez Canal.

Glowinski is currently pursuing a master's degree in sociology at Texas State.

Glowinski said he had never swam in the San Marcos River before the Polar Bear Plunge.

"Getting in was hard," Glowinski said. "Getting out was easy. 72 degrees is still cold."