WHITING | The waves whipped onto Whihala Beach like knives on Tuesday morning. The wind above caused Lake Michigan to crash with white tops into the sand and rock.
"It felt like ice picks," said Chesterton's Dakota Cooper, a senior at Andrean.
About 50 people showed up in Whiting to raise money for cancer survivors. Nine people did a "Polar Bear Plunge" on a blustery, cold start to the new year.
The wind was 14 mile per hour out of the north. The wind chill was 11 degrees when these warriors dove into the frosty H2O.
"I wanted to," said Andrean's Katie Crandol, the 59ers softball player who has been fighting brain cancer for over a year,"but my mom wouldn't let me."
This event started two weeks before Thanksgiving when Lisa Crandol, Katie's mother, heard from her sister-in-law, Linda Moon, who said they should do a Polar Bear Plunge.
"She said it would be like a Bucket List thing to do," said Lisa Crandol of Hammond.
Lisa, though, had been through several dark moments during her daughter's fight. If a pain came to a child during the various procedures, often a $5 gift card is given to bring a smile to the child's face again.
These gift cards of love come from donations.
So Lisa Crandol put a note on her Facebook page about combining the two.
"And it just blew up," Katie Crandol said.
Crandol's first request was for 20 people to donate $5 and if that happened she said she would do the plunge. As of Tuesday morning, there were at least 1,010 people who had donated $5 and seven more who gave $10.
This was spirited by a softball mom who wears a parka in the summer if the temperature is in the 70s, or so her husband, Ken Crandol, said.
"It wasn't that bad," Lisa Crandol said while sitting inside a Hammond Fire Truck warming up after the event. "When you jump in you lose your breath and it's hard to get it back."
The NICK (Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids) Foundation sponsored the plunge and the money donated will go to help patients at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago.
At least eight people from the Kankakee Valley school district made the drive to help out. Jeremy Vega is a senior at K.V. who used to live in Hammond and has been a good friend to Katie Crandol for years.
"I couldn't breathe," Vega said. "It really hit you when you dove in. But I'm doing it for all the kids who have cancer. I'm definitely doing it next year."
"I'm not," screamed Crown Point's Kia Ganz, while sitting in the fire truck. "I still can't feel my toes."
Sam Oppenhuis is a senior from Illiana Christian. The Munster native has been best friends with Crandol and the two have played a lot of softball together through the years.
"My whole body went numb," she said. "It was so cold."
Several emergency personnel were on hand, including Ken Crandol who has worked with the Hammond Fire Department for 22 years. The love and support his family has received from the Northwest Indiana community still overwhelms him.
"This is unbelievable," Ken Crandol said. "Since this began we've learned so much about how much people care. The heart and love we've received from so many people is remarkable. It really is."
Ken Crandol said hypothermia usually doesn't set in for 10 or 15 minutes. So all those who participated were fine as long as they got "in and out" of the water. The fire truck was used for the plungers to warm up and change clothes.
There was a Crandol debate about whether this event will take place next year.
"Yes," Katie said, "and I'm going to do it."
"No, no, no," Lisa Crandol said, still shivering 20 minutes after her plunge. "Well, if we do do it I'm going to watch from the beach."