With the shrinking of the polar ice cap, these may be tough times for Arctic creatures; but here in the Hudson Valley, a warm welcome is being prepared for the human variety of polar bear, regardless of the weather on Saturday, February 9. That’s when Berean Lake in Highland will play host to the ninth annual Subzero Heroes event, a major fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Last year, we raised just over $93,000 and this year’s goal is $100,000,” reports event organizer Lauren Voorhees. “Since this is a standalone event for the Hudson Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, all of the money raised from Subzero Heroes stays local to provide programs and services to families right here in our communities.”
Each year, dozens of brave souls gleefully take the plunge off the dock into the frigid waters, watched over by the wetsuit-clad Ulster County Dive Team. Many of the participants dress in silly costumes or work up chants or dance routines, all in pursuit of the goal of getting “a little crazy for a good cause.” Some are such gluttons for punishment that they even get back on line to jump in more than once!
As the Heroes emerge from the lake, each has a designated “Sidekick” waiting with a dry towel and a change of clothes. Heated trailers are provided by Mobile Mini Connect to serve as changing rooms, though some teams and families like to pitch their own tents to add to the “winter camping” atmosphere: what Voorhees terms “that grassroots element.”
Afterwards, participants congregate under a large tent for hot drinks and snacks and the conferring of awards for the best costumes in various categories. Professor Scott Swartz of the Culinary Institute of America will once again be on hand, along with a team of his students, to provide freshly made hot soup, paired with bread donated by Bread Alone Bakery. “There will be a hot chocolate bar as well,” says Voorhees. “The Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company is generously donating a variety of their delicious squishy treats to add to the cocoa bar.”
Apple cider from Minard Farms is an alternative beverage choice, and Sugar & Spice Bakery, the Pastry Garden and Cheesecake Heaven will all be contributing sweets to help restock all those carbs burned for fuel by chilly bodies. Prizes for winners of the Costume Contest will include Sacred Sipping Chocolate from Grok Bites, a one-hour massage or facial treatment from Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa and a variety of other goodies.
As a fundraiser, Subzero Heroes is structured like a walkathon, in which individuals and teams seek sponsors who will commit a donation to the charity to show their faith in the plucky volunteers — and often in honor of a loved one lost to Alzheimer’s disease. Sporting names like the Quivering Quakers (from the Oakwood Friends School), Sadie’s Elves, the Polar Express and the Dancin’ Penguins, many of the teams return year after year. As of presstime, 18 had already signed up for Subzero Heroes 2019.
The need for the Dive Team to be on hand to prevent mishaps means that the Office of the Ulster County Sheriff has been involved in this event since its inception — which raises an obvious question regarding the recent change in leadership at that agency. “Paul Van Blarcum has been a huge supporter and one of our top fundraisers for many years now. We’re sorry to say that he won’t be participating this year,” Voorhees notes. “Sheriff Figueroa has been invited to attend the event this year. Juan Figueroa, who assumed the mantle of Ulster County Sheriff at the beginning of 2019, said that he did indeed intend to continue Van Blarcum’s tradition. “I’m definitely going to go, because I know the sheriff does it every year,” he says. “A lot of us have family members who go through it; I know I have. It’s a terrible disease. It’s a good cause, and I’m all for it.” With regard to the venue for the plunge event, Figueroa notes, “I hear it’s not that deep. That’s good, because I’m five-foot-five!”
“In the event of extreme cold, people can check our website, www.subzeroheroes.org, for any updates. We want to keep people safe,” says Voorhees.
The website is the place to go to sign up to participate, to make a pledge or to find out more details, such as where to park off-site and catch the shuttle to Berean Park. There’s also a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/subzeroheroes. Check-in begins at 10:30 a.m. and the actual lake jump at noon on Saturday, February 9.