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A man who goes by the name “Wolf” dries himself after making the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Jim Miles of Chicago points to his teammates before taking a plunge during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Team Mooyah! leaps into the icy Simonton Lake during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Jim Miles of Chicago celebrates his leap into Simonton Lake’s frigid waters during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Retired Mishawaka firefighter Pat Gnivecki runs to find dry clothes after leaping into Simonton Lake during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Jim Miles and Dan Thompson, in costume, pose with their friend Jamie during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Jim Miles, center, and his teammates leap into Simonton Lake during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Leapers help one another from the frigid water during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Leapers warm themselves by the fire during the Leprechaun Leap on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern in Elkhart. Leapers took the plunge into the icy lake with temperatures hovering just over 30 degrees. All proceeds from the event go to United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)
Leprechaun Leap draws hundreds to Simonton Lake
Posted on March 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 16, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.

ELKHART — Braving below-freezing temperatures and icy water, Leprechaun Leap participants made a splash at Simonton Lake this weekend for a good cause.

Hundreds of people gathered at Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern on Saturday, March 16, for the eighth annual fundraiser for United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. The nonprofit organization guides local cancer patients through their first year of treatment by linking them to financial aid and other resources.

While many participants were seasoned Leprechaun Leapers, it was Will Mishler’s first time at the event, which doubles as a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The 14-year-old Northridge Middle School student was diagnosed with a form of nerve cancer last summer. He was one of the first people to jump into the lake along with the crew from Mishawaka’s rock radio station 103.9 The Bear.

“I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m not weak,” Mishler said, explaining why he decided to be part of this year’s Leprechaun Leap.

Jim Miles got into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit by jumping into the lake dressed like a leprechaun, complete with a red beard and a green top hat. He drove from Chicago to Elkhart for the event for the sixth year in a row in honor of his best friend’s daughter, Teigan Donoho.

“She has a kind of brain cancer,” Miles said. “She was diagnosed at 6 months. She wasn’t supposed to live past a year old. She’s 7 now. She’s why I do this every year.”

Peter Norton, executive director for United Cancer Services, expressed his thanks to the daring groups of people who plunged into Simonton Lake this weekend.

“They are the hale and the hearty,” he said. “You’ve got to appreciate them.”

Norton will be tallying the donations and money raised at the event over the next couple of days.