The Polar Bear Plunge almost ended in disaster hours before it was even set to begin due to a digging accident.
As the tractor was cutting into the ice at Lake Contrary for the eighth-annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics, an oil pipe was hit and started to leak into the lake. Frankie Maas, senior public relations major at Missouri Western and intern for the nonprofit organization, said that the misfortunate hit almost forced the event to be cancelled, and limited the plungers to go only up to their knees.
Despite the minor setback, the plungers, which numbered over 300, raised $51,097 on Saturday, Feb. 15, by collecting a donation of $75 a person and running into 32 degree water, Maas said.
The plungers were comprised of individual jumpers and groups of jumpers, consisting of church groups, local schools of all levels, fraternities and sororities, local organizations, and friends all waiting their turn to run into the freezing water, where safety groups were waiting in case of emergency. These brave souls all formed the parade ceremony, which was full of a variety of costumes to show their enthusiasm for the cause.
Jessica Flatt, sophomore elementary education major and plunger, spoke highly of the organization and event as she ran to the warming tent after her dip into the water.
“My favorite thing about the Polar Bear Plunge is that it’s supporting a good cause,” Flatt said. “Even though the water is freezing!”
Flatt, who was plunging for her second year, is just one of many individuals who have been coming back year after year in support of the Special Olympics.
In addition to the individuals and groups that chose to jump into the lake water, others that either couldn’t or chose not to jump found other ways to contribute to the cause.
Shirely Heideman, a fourth-year volunteer, was not brave enough to walk into the bone-chilling water, but donated her time instead by helping with event registration.
“Seeing all these different people in costumes and how excited they all are to jump into the water is amazing,” Heideman said.
Heideman lives in a small town five hours north of St. Joseph, and drove to the location to help set up the donated equipment and tents at 10 a.m.
The St. Joseph plunge is just one of numerous jumps into freezing water held across the state of Missouri, the United States and even other nations.