SALEM, Utah (ABC4) — Nearly 100 participants showed up for the eighth-annual Pond Town Polar Plunge in Salem on Monday, Jan. 2.

The annual event is held at the beginning of the year and serves two purposes. Jefferson Chase, the organizer of the event, said the first reason for the plunge is to encourage other people to challenge themselves in a new year.

“It’s the first day of the year, challenge yourself to accomplish something hard, and that way you can look back through the year and you can say, ‘You know what, I did something challenging the first day of the year, I can do more hard things,’” Chase said.

Secondly, not only do participants look inward during the plunge, but they extend a helping hand outward as well to families who’ve lost children to diseases like cancer. 

“The event is free every year but what we ask is that if people do feel like they want to donate, then they can go to a Venmo account which is the Live for Levi Foundation Venmo account, and they can donate to that fundraiser,” Chase said.   

Snow fell as one person after another either waded or jumped into the chilly water. One of those people to jump right in was Mitchel Nunez.

“This is my first time seeing snow, and this is my first time doing something this crazy,” Nunez said with a chuckle. He drove down from Provo to join the festivities.  

“To be honest, it was really cold!” He laughed.

He said it knocked the breath right out of him at first. However, he quickly learned that there is a trick to overcoming the initial shock of the freezing water.

“Take a deep breath and everything starts to work again,” he said.

For Nunez, part of the reason he joined this year’s plunge was to step out of his comfort zone. He believes doing something like this will help him accomplish other goals throughout the year. He emphasized: “I think it works, to be honest.”  

Chase said when they first organized the event in 2016, there were only six people involved.

“Through the years it has grown into what you see now,” he said. “We have 80 to 90 people jumping in and a lot of support from friends and family.”