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Hundreds take Pittsburgh Polar Plunge into Ohio River for Special Olympics

Andrew Russell
| Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, 3:54 p.m.
Ryan Ortwein, 22, member of Phi Sigma Kappa at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, flexes after emerging from the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Ryan Ortwein, 22, member of Phi Sigma Kappa at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, flexes after emerging from the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Tim Grunklee, 22 Joe Leonello, 19  and Steven Pedersen 20, (l-r) all members of Phi Sigma Kappa at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, climb out of the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Tim Grunklee, 22 Joe Leonello, 19 and Steven Pedersen 20, (l-r) all members of Phi Sigma Kappa at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, climb out of the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Danielle Collins, of McCandless (left) and Kelsy Gaetner, of Wexford run out of the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Collins and Gaetner were representing 5 Fools Bar and Grill in McCandless and the proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Danielle Collins, of McCandless (left) and Kelsy Gaetner, of Wexford run out of the Ohio River after participating in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Collins and Gaetner were representing 5 Fools Bar and Grill in McCandless and the proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Kelsy Gaetner, of Wexford (left) and Danielle Collins, of McCandless huddle together for warmth during in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Collins and Gaetner were representing 5 Fools Bar and Grill in McCandless and the proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Kelsy Gaetner, of Wexford (left) and Danielle Collins, of McCandless huddle together for warmth during in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Collins and Gaetner were representing 5 Fools Bar and Grill in McCandless and the proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Krystal Schultz, Mayor of Valencia, holds an American flag and sports a polar bear hat before Pittsburgh Polar Plunge at Stage AE on the North Shore, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Krystal Schultz, Mayor of Valencia, holds an American flag and sports a polar bear hat before Pittsburgh Polar Plunge at Stage AE on the North Shore, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Peggie Keenan, of Bridgevrille (left) and Amy Lieberman of Peters huddle to keep warm before the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Peggie Keenan, of Bridgevrille (left) and Amy Lieberman of Peters huddle to keep warm before the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge swim in the Ohio River, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge react to the cold, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Participants in the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge react to the cold, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania.

There are easier ways to help Special Olympics Pennsylvania but few that build the kind of camaraderie generated by the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge.

Almost 900 people braved the chilly Ohio River on Saturday during the apex of the two-day event to raise money to benefit Special Olympics athletes.

“I could write a check — it's that simple — but it's about actually getting the camaraderie with the Olympians, with their families,” Valencia Mayor Krystal Schultz said. “These are relationships I'll have for the rest of my life.”

Unlike last year's one-day event, this year's was split between two days. On Friday, a group of 16 “super plungers” jumped into a pool twice an hour for 12 hours at Stage AE's outdoor venue. Saturday's main event saw 14 groups of 40 to 60 people running into the Ohio River. This year's weather, with an air temperature that hovered around the mid-20s, was significantly colder than last year's balmy, 60 degree readings.

“I've been meaning to do this for a couple of years. Unfortunately, I picked the coldest year,” said Ben Perna of Robinson. “I ate some hot sausage this morning hoping to warm up from the inside out.”

Andrew Russell is a Tribune-Review photographer. Reach him at arussell@tribweb.com.

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