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‘Polar bears’ jump into 10th year

2/21/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Photos: Lew Stamp
NEW FRANKLIN — Cold weather did not stop supporters from attending the 10th annual Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump Feb. 16 at the Portage Lakes State Park.

This year, the event was held to benefit the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. A group of jumpers and watchers are shown at right top.

According to Kelly Pariso, who organized the jump along with his wife, Heather, and neighbors Jeff and Debbie Fulkman, more than 2,000 spectators came out to watch more than 725 jumpers take the plunge into the icy cold waters off the beach in the state park. Pariso said the event raised more than $80,000 for the Foodbank. Donations are still being accepted at www.portagelakespolarbearclub.com.

“I am very proud to reflect on what we have accomplished over the last 10 years,” said Pariso. “I feel we have made an impact on the community not only financially, but also by making the Portage Lakes and surrounding areas more fun in February.”

Among those participating in the Polar Bear Jump was Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank President and CEO Dan Flowers and his son, Andy, 12, shown at right bottom, who were the first to jump.

Flowers said more than a dozen people from the organization decided to participate for the first time this year.

“This event is the second biggest fundraiser for us, and our organization depends on it,” he said. “We are thrilled to be a part of the event, and we want to thank all the jumpers, supporters and organizers. The logistics of our organization is complicated, but feeding the hungry is basic to what we do. One dollar provides four meals for the hungry men, women and children in the community.”

To make a donation to the Foodbank, visit www.akroncantonfoodbank.org.

— By Maria Lindsay

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