They came in pairs, some clad in swim trunks, some fully clothed, climbing the short flight of steps behind in Maple Grove, and pausing on the small jumping platform.
The round tank's water was a luminous LED green, chilled to 50 degrees by 2,500 pounds of ice. From above, the tank looked like the Go lamp of a giant traffic signal.
And then they went, plummeting feet first, as cannon balls or in spread-eagle belly flops from the 90-degree wet heat into frosty deliverance.
In total, 50 jumpers participated in the first ever Solar Plunge Sunday afternoon. The event, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Minnesota, was a spin-off of the five-year-old Polar Bear Plunge, which raised $2.2 million last winter, organizer Megan Powell said.
Powell said Sunday’s plunge raised more than $2,500 to support 7,000 athletes.
“We thought we’d do something so people who are to chicken to take a plunge in the winter can still get involved and do something to help the Special Olympics,” Powell said.
Kathy Sveen and her family drove up from Viola, MN, two take part in the polar plunge. They have made two previous polar plunges and last year, she said, raised $2,000.
The solar plunge “was nothing,” she said. “The polar plunge is bitter cold: It takes you 24 hours to warm up.”
Sveen calls her family the “Because We Can” team.
“We don’t want to jump into that cold water, but we can,” she said. “You think of kids in wheelchairs, and they’d give anything just to be able to jump in that water.”
Mike Kinnan, owner of the Lookout Bar & Grill, rented the tank and bought the ice. He hopes to make the water even colder for future plunges.
“Next year we want to get it around 40 degrees,” he said, “so we’re going to start with huge blocks of ice and then add water.”
Troy Cornick of Maple Grove stepped into the tank while holding his son, Mathew, 4. The Cornicks came to support Mathew’s friend Reese, who was born with Down Syndrome. They called themselves the “Reese’s Pieces.”
“You couldn’t have asked for a better day for it, other than making the water a little colder,” Troy Cornick said.
Mathew Cornick was more conflicted.
He said the cold water felt “good,” but when, post-plunge, they went to towel off, he told his father, “I don’t want to do that again.”