Cold plunge shows warm hearts for special needs kids

Scores brave the icy waters of Lake Mohawk

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  • Over 40 volunteers braved the icy waters of Lake Mohawk last Sunday Photos by Amy Shewchuk

  • EMS volunteers, on hand for safety concerns, have a little fun

  • Warm-hearted 'polar bears' enab le kids to attend Camp Moore, a recreational facility for special needs children

  • Northern Hills Academy staff, students and parents

By Amy Shewchuk

— Over 40 volunteers braved the icy-cold waters of Lake Mohawk this past Sunday to benefit the Sparta Elk’s Camp Moore, a state-run special needs camp located in Haskell, NJ.

The annual plunge, this year dubbed "Chillin' for the Children," sponsors 16 special needs children to go to Camp Moore for one week for free, which is a wonderful experience for the children as well as offering the parents a respite.

This yearly charity event is sponsored by the Sparta Elk’s Club along with volunteers from the Kiwanis Club, VFW and Sparta Police, Fire and Ambulance Departments. “Plungers” included Councilman Gil Gibbs, a “plunger” for the past 6 years, Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto, Police Lieutenant John Lamon, Pete Litchfield of the Sparta VFW, Afghanistan War veteran Michael Krapels, and Al Lenox of Picatinny Arsenal, among many others.

Jennifer Cook, principal, and Andrea Romano, superintendent of Northern Hills Academy, a public special needs school through the Sussex County Educational Services also plunged for the cause along with parents, teachers and students from the school, all donning festive wigs, hats and clothes.

The Sparta Fire Department and Ambulance Squad volunteered their time, ensuring everyone’s safety.

“We do this for the purpose of putting smiles on the faces of the kids and giving them a week of camping and fun activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, a playground and water park, as well as day trips to the beach," said Anthony Alfonso of Camp Moore. "It also offers the parents of the children a bit of a break, as caring for them is a 24/7 labor of love,” said Anthony Alfonso of Camp Moore.

Lieutenant Lamon, who works with several community-based programs such as the Junior Police Academy and tours for Girl Scouts, Daisies and Boy Scouts, had no regrets about weathering the cold for the worthy cause.

“I’d do it again!” he said.

The Polar Plunge also benefits Sparta TOPSoccer, a 6-week program for special needs children. Moreover, the Elks Club puts on a Halloween Party for the children and the Kiwanis Club has a barbecue in the Fall, all made possible by donations and volunteers.

This year "the Plunge" raised over $7000. Donations are still being accepted at under the Charity Events tab.

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