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Hundreds plunge into Lake Coeur d’Alene to celebrate accomplishments, new year

In World
January 02, 2024

Jan. 1—One Spokane couple stared at the hundreds of people in front of them on Sanders Beach in Coeur d’Alene, nervously waiting for the last 10 minutes they had until they jumped in the icy cold lake.

Daniel and Ashley Franklin were wearing their graduation robes. The couple had never participated in Coeur d’Alene’s annual Polar Bear Plunge that takes place annually on New Year’s Day, but in celebration of them finishing school in the past two years, they said, “This is how we’re gonna do it.”

Daniel, 47, graduated from Carrington College with a degree in medical coding. His wife, Ashley, 32, graduated from West Coast University and received a master’s in health care. After a dip in the water, the two were going to celebrate a belated Christmas with their families.

Daniel didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his family before pursuing his degree, he said. He used to work in the restaurant business and had to work long hours with little time off. Daniel pointed at his young son, playing in the wet sand, and referenced how important passing that milestone really was.

“I have older kids… There was a lot that I missed in their childhood. I don’t want to do that with him,” Daniel said. “I wanted to make sure I was in health care because health care never goes away.”

Trisha Miles, who was parading around the beach in a unicorn costume, was there for a different reason. Her 23-year-old son works for the military and is about to be deployed to a place he can’t reveal to his family for security reasons.

“He loves the polar plunge, and he’s in North Carolina,” Miles said. “I told him that I would do the jump for him… He’s done it every year since he was 8.”

Among the people along the edge of the beach, some drinking coffee with their shirts off, some dancing in tutus, stood Kathy Locke. She was wearing a silver crown that could almost be seen from 100 steps up the sand.

“They call me the queen,” Locke said as she pointed to her friends, who were there on behalf of Kitefit, a gym in Post Falls. Locke was only doing the plunge, she joked, because she “got shamed into it.”

“I’ve just never thought about doing it until now,” Locke said. “I’ve gotten way better fitness wise, so now I do different things.”

As the countdown to noon started, many people began frantically removing their clothes. Some spectators pointed and laughed at their families and friends who were in bikinis and shorts, as they stood there in giant coats and gloves.

After a mad dash for the lake, large groups made their exits with towels and blankets, shouting at each other about how cold the water was. Others remained in the lake to enjoy a swim.

Daniel and Ashley Franklin re-emerged from the water and ran to their towels on the shore.

“We did it!” Ashley said to her husband, as she gave him a kiss to celebrate all they’ve accomplished.

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