City of Albuquerque hosting first polar plunge in honor of late lifeguard Shanta Hanish

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People in the metro are using a New Year’s tradition to honor the legacy of a young murder victim. Many will take the Al’burrr’querque Polar Bear Plunge this weekend at West Mesa Aquatic Center in honor of a girl they say loved to help kids in the community.

Polar plunges often happen at gyms and community centers around town at the beginning of the year. This will be the first time the City of Albuquerque has hosted one and it’s all for Shanta Hanish who was tragically killed last summer.

“We’ve never done a polar plunge before for the City of Albuquerque and there’s always been a need to,” said Josh Herbert, Aquatic Division Manager for CABQ’s Parks and Recreation Department. “I never really wanted to do it just for fun; I wanted to do it for a reason, for a purpose, and now we do have that purpose.”

In December 2019, the city launched the Shanta Strong Swim Fund, in honor of longtime city lifeguard, Shanta Hanish. Hanish and her mom Laura were murdered in their Nob Hill home back in June 2019.

Donations from the Polar Plunge will go to the fund, providing scholarships for swim lessons at the Highland Pool, where Hanish was a lifeguard. The lessons will go to kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.

A portion of proceeds will also go to the Biopark Zoo to feed the penguins and polar bears. The city says the Shanta Strong Swim Fund and Polar Plunge help Hanish’s legacy live on.

“She loved teaching swimming lessons. She was going to school to be a teacher. This scholarship will help preserve her legacy,” said Herbert. “It’s something really cool to do at the beginning of the year to really kick-start giving back to the community.”

For those who feel like taking the Al’burrr’querque Polar Bear Plunge, the event kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the West Mesa Aquatic Center. The city says there will be plenty of options for “diving in” including wading in through the beach entrance, jumping into the deep end, or taking the longer route via water slide.

A $30 donation gets you into the plunge, while kids 12 and under are free. A $50 donation includes a special towel. The city says you can also make a donation for the swim lesson scholarships if you prefer to stay warm and dry.

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