Polar PlungeAll brave and courageous souls are encouraged to support a good cause on Saturday at the sixth annual Polar Plunge in Jamestown.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
All brave and courageous souls are encouraged to support a good cause on Saturday at the sixth annual Polar Plunge in Jamestown.
Anyone who collects a minimum of $75 in pledges for Special Olympics North Dakota will be able to plunge themselves into the chilly waters of a swimming pool at the Larson Center/YMCA on the Jamestown College campus.
All proceeds from the event will go directly to SOND, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities become physically fit and productive members of society through sports competition.
The plunge, which is conducted by local law enforcement, is a Law Enforcement Torch Run event. LETR is the largest grassroots fundraising
effort for Special Olympics, according to Kathy Meagher, president and CEO of Special Olympics North Dakota.
More than 1,400 athletes from North Dakota participate in four Special Olympics events each year, according to Ben Kennelly, trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol. After helping in previous years, Kennelly has taken a lead role in coordinating the plunge this year on behalf of the NDHP.
“In Jamestown alone, there are about 123 athletes from the city,” he said.
There are a little less than 200 athletes in all of Stutsman County who benefit from Special Olympics, according to Don Redmann, warden at the James River Correctional Center.
Redmann, who is one of three judges for this year’s plunge, said this year’s event may not be a “true polar plunge” but they will do their best.
“Any water below 60 degrees is too cold for me, but we’re going to make sure it’s nice and cold for all of our plungers — I don’t care if I have to bring some ice in of my own to make it that way,” he said.
Kennelly said this is a great opportunity for the public to come out, support a good cause and meet some people with wonderful stories.
“There’s a lot of things in life we take for granted sometimes, but coming out to an event like this really gives you a different perspective. It gives you a chance to see how important it is to these athletes that are competing in the Special Olympics,” he said.
The event began in 2007 when participants plunged into a large hole that was cut in the ice on Jamestown Reservoir. Redmann was at the inaugural plunge but said attendance has been down the past couple of years.
“The last two winters haven’t been too kind to us, but this is such a great cause and we’re really trying to encourage the college and the whole community to get behind this kind of fundraiser this year and for years to come,” Redmann said.
Redmann is encouraging a friendly rivalry at the plunge between Valley City State University and Jamestown College students.
“I think it could be a pretty good rivalry to establish between the two schools for the years to come — you know, see which college can get more students out to plunge each year,” he said.
Kennelly said the goal for this year is to have at least 20 to 30 plungers participate, after having just seven in last year’s plunge.
“It should be a good time — there’s going to be food and a live DJ and some great prizes and awards also,” he said.
This year also marks the 40-year celebration of Special Olympics in North Dakota. Meagher said Jamestown should be proud to be part of that celebration, as it was the first city to host a Polar Plunge in the entire state.
“Jamestown, local law enforcement and the community volunteers can take a great deal of pride in being part of something like this,” she said. “Events like the plunge are so important to open up more eyes and ears to Special Olympics — hopefully people get to talking about it and then others start asking questions about it.”
Grand Forks hosted a Polar Plunge on March 3 and had 74 plungers. The plunge was the first of three in the state this year, along with Saturday’s plunges in Jamestown and Fargo.
“In fact, the birth of the Grand Forks plunge came from UND (University of North Dakota) students who came to a Jamestown plunge and wanted to bring the idea to their town,” Meagher said.
The two top-prizes for the Jamestown plunge are a 32-inch flat screen TV for the person who raises the most pledge money and an entry into a drawing for a one-night stay at the Ramada Plaza & Suites in Fargo.
Registration takes place from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. The plunge itself takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Awards will be given for best costume, most money raised, oldest plunger and youngest plunger.
The public is encouraged to come watch even if they do not want to participate. Those who wish to raise money but do not want to plunge will receive a “Too Chicken to Plunge” t-shirt if they raise $30.
For more information or to pre-register, visit www.specialolympicsnorthdakota.org. SOND can also be reached at 701-746-0331.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org