Some people are willing to suffer for a cause they believe in, but there are limits. Last Saturday, 75 so-called Subzero Heroes tested those limits at Berean Lake in Highland, where they were slated to take a frigid plunge to benefit the Hudson Valley chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. As this was the sixth annual event of its kind, those participating surely expected it to be cold, but perhaps not quite as cold as it turned out to be: 18 degrees, or two below zero with the wind chill factored in. And that, of course, was just the air.
As for the water, it wasn’t even accessible until the dive team from the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department broke apart the ice. They were among numerous emergency responders on hand to make sure that the event didn’t turn dangerous in the extreme cold; the Hudson Valley dipped to lower temperatures than portions of Siberia, and extensive measures were taken to ensure safety for all involved. Participants were not allowed to go deeper than about 18 inches, and the heating units which are set up every year were put right on the shore for a quick warm-up afterwards. A group of school children from Orange-Ulster BOCES weren’t even allowed to make the jump; another event will be scheduled for next month for them.
Despite the record-breaking cold, or perhaps because of it, Subzero Heroes is a spectacle by its nature. Those who raised the most money get to jump in — and warm up — first, and it’s common to do so in some kind of crazy costume. That’s what Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum did: after earning the honor of being first in the water, he took the plunge in full uniform, with a red cape added. He also had his Glock on his hip, a not-so-subtle reminder of his controversial Facebook post in December calling for licensed gun owners to train to combat mass shooters. The sheriff, who raised $20,000 with his team, said his interest stems from numerous searches for missing Alzheimer’s patients he has been involved in during his long career.
More locally, law enforcement in the form of Lloyd town police officers took part in the event. Chief Daniel Waage personally raised $2,945 of the $11,435 the police team collectively received in pledges. Waage’s efforts, however, were only second-best on the team, with Lieutenant James Janso raising $3,320 of the total.
Enthusiasm for the event has continued to grow year after year. Last year the event raised $100,000, far exceeding the goal of $60,000 which had been set. That amount became this year’s goal, but once all the pledges are in and counted, organizers expect that $135,000 will have been raised to research ways to stop the disease.