Hollis and Brookline folks playing polar plunge game

BROOKLINE–What may have begun as an innocent prank seems to have taken on a life of its own in Hollis, Brookline and other nearby communities.

People are daring others to take a dip in a cold body of water, videotape it, and then they in turn get to call out the next batch of folks who then have 24 hours to take a plunge. The activity is not sanctioned by any organization, and seems to be attracting students and adults.

“Our number one concern, of course, is student safety,” said John Moody, interim superintendent of Hollis and Brookline schools. “More and more people are being called out and there is peer pressure to join in.”

Moody said the activity is unsupervised and not sanctioned by any school organization. He also expressed concern that there could be liability issues if any staff members chose to participate, and that it could be viewed as inappropriate fraternization with students.

Brookline Police Chief Bill Quigley said that although there has not been need for police involvement, he is concerned about safety. He said Lake Potanipo seems to be the popular destination for the cold dips and although the boat launch is on state property, Cohen Grove is on town property and swimming there during the off-season would be considered trespassing.

Quigley also expressed concern about the physiological reaction to suddenly plunging into cold water, with potential effects ranging from shock to gasping and inhaling icy water. He pointed out that the organized polar plunges, including the one at Hampton Beach, are fundraisers that are done with medical staff on-hand, and this peer pressure game is completely unsupervised.

There also seems to be some question as to whether the local activity is indeed a fundraiser. Some families have posted on Facebook that they purchased stickers to commemorate their participation in the plunge, with funds going to the Brookline Food Pantry.

Ann Webb, director of the food pantry, said she was unaware of the fundraiser, and that although the pantry can always use donations, she didn’t want to think about anyone being hurt by this activity.

Quigley reported that the number of participants seems to be dwindling down, and said he hopes that the game will soon be over without any incidents.