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Cold for a cause

Falling into near-freezing waters, Southern Oregon's cops saw a different shade of blue.

With "Ice, Ice, Baby" and Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" hyping the crowd Saturday at the Jackson Aquatic Center, bags of ice and low-40s weather didn't keep the roughly 300 locals from a morning of cold and camaraderie at the Eighth Annual Law Enforcement Polar Plunge at the Jackson Aquatic Center in Medford.

Among cold coppers taking his first Polar Plunge Saturday was Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler, who joined eight others from throughout his ranks and divisions jumping in and raising funds for Special Olympics Oregon. The shock of the water, which Sickler measured at 42.6 degrees, didn't dampen some frigid fun with a partner agency. While five of Medford's finest braced themselves for their plunge, a dripping Sickler gave Medford Deputy Chief Scott Clauson a "polar" bear hug.

Joining the five officers in the plunge was Special Olympian Nick Hiti, who Clauson says "always jumps with us." Hiti raised a victorious fist in the water.

It was Clauson's third plunge, but he said he hasn't acclimated to it yet.

"No matter how much you psych yourself out, it's still cold," Clauson said.

In a bittersweet moment, organizers honored Sheriff's Sgt. Christine Skinner, who took the plunge in uniform for her sixth and final time. Skinner, who's organized the sheriff's office's Polar Plunge team in previous years, and has been active planning the event for the past eight years, will retire later this year. Corrections Deputy Rian Kolkemo picked up Skinner's baton this year, thanking her.

Many plungers sported themed costumes representing businesses, schools and organizations at the event, but the only law enforcement officers  to participate in the costume contest were Oregon State Police troopers from the Central Point office, who wore special "Copsickles South" T-shirts for the event. A ninth raised funds to participate, but was ill, according to Detective Travis Lee. Others on the force joked the officer was "too chicken."

Winning the top costume prize were roller derby skaters from SO Derby, who wore hairnets, canes and bathrobes for a theme that Melinda "Mountain Mel" Favro described as "celebrating the older generation." Another brought a tray of fresh-baked cookies.

With pink curling rollers in her hair, Favro said she wasn't sure how the costume would play out. Her son asked her, "Isn't that mean to Grandma?"

"Oh you stop it," Favro relayed. "We're celebrating Grandma!"

Among four jumping in with Jackson County Community Justice was Parole Officer Tira Hubbard. She'd taken the plunge with roller derby organizations before, but it was her first time with Community Justice.

"I wouldn't wanna hang around in there," Hubbard said. "It's cold."

At the other end of the experience spectrum was Central Point Police Explorer DeShain Croghan, who jumped in with the agency for the first time Saturday.

"I'm a little bit nervous," Croghan said, looking at the pool and telling himself it's "just a little bit of water."

Each jumper raised a minimum $50 for Special Olympics.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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Melinda Favro, with the Southern Oregon Roller Derby, participates in the Southern Oregon Polar Plunge at the Jackson Aquatic Center in Medford on Saturday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]
Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Melissa DiCostanzo reacts to icy water during the the Southern Oregon Polar Plunge at the Jackson Aquatic Center in Medford on Saturday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]