Polar Plungers Brave Freezing Waters For Special Olympics

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A solid layer of ice didn’t stop more than 200 Polar Plungers from running, jumping, and — in some cases — sliding into Lake Snowden on Saturday.

Workers cut out a large area of ice to make room for the Plungers, removing pieces that were at least eight inches thick, and clearing smaller chunks to ensure that the water was safe and clear of sharp edges.

Polar Plunge is a fundraiser for Special Olympics Ohio; eight other similar events are held around the state. People who attend are encouraged to wear costumes and an individual and team costume contest is held before the plunge.

Ohio University student Chris Glynn said he was inspired to take part in the Plunge by his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta. The fraternity is one of the main organizers behind the event, along with OU’s police department.

“This is kind of their big philanthropy event,” Glynn said, “A dedication to Special Olympics.

"Growing up,” Glynn added, "I had an aunt who had Down Syndrome, so it means even more to me, knowing that she benefited from Special Olympics."

Glynn, a senior who has taken the plunge twice before, said he felt that this year was going to be the coldest yet. But he thought he would fare pretty well.

“I think we’ll be okay, especially compared to Stroud’s Run. It didn’t have the warming rooms that Lake Snowden has.”

Paige Ludwig, marketing and development director for Special Olympics Ohio, said 199 people pre-registered with several registering on the day and many, many more arriving as spectators. Ludwig decided to take the plunge as well, this time.

“I’ve not plunged at this one before,” she said. “I’ve plunged at Lake Erie, and some of the other ones. I try to get to all of them.”

Ludwig said she was very pleased with the turnout and level of enthusiasm at Lake Snowden.

“It’s really great,” Ludwig said, “Our goal is to raise $25,000. It’s a great day for Special Olympics.”

After individual and team costume contests, participants – all of whom had raised at least $50 – ran into the water in groups and then headed off to the warming rooms. Brady Carpenter of Beverly, Ohio, said afterward that the water was freezing, but he was glad he took the challenge.

Polar Plunge is one of the largest fundraisers for Special Olympics Ohio, with nine such events in the state.

Special Olympics provides year-round competition and training opportunities for athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities at the local, area and state levels.