Polar Plunge participants dive in for a good cause
COLUMBIA - The winter is still upon mid-Missouri, but it was a beautiful day Saturday for the 2018 Polar Plunge.
More than 200 people braved the cold water to support local Special Olympics athletes by walking, running or crawling into a lake at Bass Pro Shops.
This year's goal was to raise $50,000 - $10,000 more than last year. When the day was done, the event took in $54,000
Michael Monedritzer, a plunger with Mizzou Down Syndrome Advocates, said his organization raised more than $1,300 dollars alone and participated in the event because it sees the need and wants to help.
“We’re here to plunge, we just feel like, especially around in this area, a lot of needs of the special needs really aren’t being met and the special Olympics is doing so much work to really try to bring this community to together by advocating for acceptance and equality,” he said.
Proceeds benefit Special Olympics Missouri’s year-round program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Susan Stegeman, Special Olympics Missouri Polar Plunge co-planner said there are more than 2,600 athletes that train and compete year round in central Missouri.
Plunger Tosca Sweatt said those athletes often go overlooked.
“People don’t understand special needs kids and that there’s all kinds of kids that don’t have the support they need or the funding,” she said.
Stegeman said Veterans United Foundation funded all the expenses associated with the Polar Plunge "so that one hundred percent of the funds raised by our polar bears will go towards the competitions that special Olympics puts on every year.”
Although there was no ice to plunge into, announcers at the event said they believe the water still had frigid temperatures.
Participant Peyton Davis was plunging with her sorority, Kappa Beta Gamma from Central Methodist University in Fayette.
"Special Olympics Missouri is our philanthropy. For me, I have babysat multiple kids with special needs and I think it is for a good cause," Davis said.
She said it's important to advocate for events like the Polar Plunge.
"It's not just one place, there are special needs kids all over the world. There's people all over the world with these issues," Davis said.
The plunge began with a costume parade. Participants were encouraged to wear costumes and the groups with the best costume won an award.
America Building Projects came in first place with employees wearing costumes for the characters in Toy Story.
Rusty Dutton raised $1,470 and was named the top individual fundraiser. Isle of Capri in Boonville was named the biggest group fundraiser with $3,376. The top fundraising school was Thomas Jefferson with $2,157.
Stegeman said the Special Olympics is always looking for volunteers.
“It might be that you just come out and say ‘I want to be a part of set up crew, I want to be a part of handing out the meals, I want to help write down the scores of the athletes,''" she said. “They may think they come for a day, but really they stay for a lifetime. Really that’s the truth.”
The first Polar Bear Plunge was held at the Lake of the Ozarks in 1996. Columbia was added to the calendar in 2008. The name was then officially changed to "Polar Plunge" in 2010. There are thirteen locations in Missouri.
You can find out about SOMO's upcoming events on its website.