Beyond the Byline: Taking the polar plunge

By Melanie Mizenko - [email protected] | February 1st, 2017 10:14 pm - updated: 10:51 am.

SCRANTON — We did it.

Seven Times Leader staff members took the Polar Plunge for Splashin’ with Compassion on Saturday.

For some, it was a bucket list item; for me it was personal. Though I didn’t know Shannon McDonough, who passed away in 2009 from colon cancer at 23 and who the plunge honors, I feel like I owe it to 20-somethings to keep their memory alive.

When Features Editor Sarah Haase started asking the newsroom if they were in, I thought about it for a millisecond. I was in. My battle with endometrial cancer has taught me to take risks and to never fear. Obit clerk Patrick Kernan, on the other hand, didn’t buy his ticket until the last minute just in case he decided to back out.

On D-Day, I was joined by Patrick, Sarah, D.J. Eberle, Matt Mattei, Gene Axton and Alicia Johnson. My mom, Susan, and my uncle, Kevin, joined us for moral support.

Half of the people were dressed in ski coats with skis and snowboards on their feet. The other half were dressed in their best summer wear. Most of the sentiments from parking attendants were “you’re braver than me” or “it’s really cold outside today.”

Yeah, it was cold. It was hovering around 32 and snow was fresh on Montage Mountain.

Before each 10 to 15 minute slot of jumpers, Montage employees would throw shovels of snow into the pool — you know, just to make it colder.

We stood in the cold watching everyone until about 20 minutes before our time when we went into the lodge to change into our clothes. The lodge was incredibly warm, but, nonetheless, we went from warm to cold really fast. Dressed in shirts that said “I’m Not Peachy” to honor my battle with cancer, we made our way to the pool.

Shoes came off and we stepped up to the edge. As we stood there waiting for the countdown, we plotted how were were going to pick the prizes off the bottom.





When we all came up for air, it was much colder than being under the water. There is a photo floating around of Patrick forgetting to breath. My fingers locked up on the second grab I tried. The seven of us raced to the steps out of the pool, empty-handed. Bummer.

Once we wrapped ourselves in towels and walked back to the lodge to get warm, we all decided it was a great memory we had together. Alicia had warned us ahead of time that warm socks were the key to warming up. The first thing I did was root through my duffel bag of flannels for my socks. She was right.

Hundreds of others, including groups and individuals, did the same thing. Some wore costumes, including “The Chickens” and Shannon’s uncle who wore a kilt.

My mom was most worried about me catching a cold with my immune system comprised. As soon as I got home, I fell asleep. And when I woke up, I sneezed. My mom, stalwart as ever, hoped I wasn’t catching a cold. I’m happy to admit, after nearly five days, I’m feeling great.

Truthfully, we’re all feeling great. We jumped for a good cause.

Gene rated the jump a 10 out of 10. He dove into the pool in a suit.

“It was an adrenaline rush that carried me through the rest of the weekend,” he said.

“I’m thankful to have experienced my first plunge … and I’m happy we could come together for a noble purpose at the same time,” Matt said.

Patrick, who was hesitant right until we jumped, said it was “more fun” than he expected.

“I’m definitely looking forward to doing another again,” he said.

Times Leader staffers D.J. Eberle, Sarah Haase, Melanie Mizenko, Matt Mattei, Alicia Johnson, Gene Axton and Patrick Kernan took a chilly bath last Saturday. Leader staffers D.J. Eberle, Sarah Haase, Melanie Mizenko, Matt Mattei, Alicia Johnson, Gene Axton and Patrick Kernan took a chilly bath last Saturday. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Mizenko Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

By Melanie Mizenko

[email protected]

Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko