Murray State students take the plunge

Participants at the 2012 Polar Plunge dive at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to raise awareness for a good cause. || Photo courtesy of 2012westernkyplunge.shutterfly.com
Participants at the 2012 Polar Plunge dive at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to raise awareness for a good cause. || Photo courtesy of 2012westernkyplunge.shutterfly.com

Participants at the 2012 Polar Plunge dive at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to raise awareness for a good cause. || Photo courtesy of 2012westernkyplunge.shutterfly.com

Murray State students, along with community members, are working together to raise money for the Special Olympics, and they are not freezin’ for no reason.

The 2013 Western Kentucky Polar Plunge takes place at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park on Feb. 16 at 11:30 a.m., only a two-hour drive from Murray State’s campus.

This year’s event is joined by the inaugural Polar Plunge 5K, which will run through Kentucky Dam Village State Park earlier that morning. Currently, more than 150 people are signed up to participate in the 5K. Some will participate in both the 5K and the Plunge.

The Plunge is similar to a Walk-a-Thon but with a twist. Participants will still fundraise for the event to support the cause but instead of walking, they will make a jump into the cold lake at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park.

The first Polar Plunge in Kentucky took place in Louisville, Ky., 15 years ago, and Saturday’s event will be the fourth plunge of the year.

So far more than 500 people are expected to participate, but not everyone interested in the event is required to make the jump. Anyone is allowed to fundraise for the cause and all contributions are welcome.

Participants will receive prizes based on how much money they raise.

The Polar Plunge requires a minimum donation of $75 in order to participate and is one of the biggest Special Olympics fundraisers of the year. All the funds will remain in Kentucky to benefit local children and adults with a mental disability.

“It’s my first year with the Polar Plunge and donating and I’m really looking forward to helping with the Special Olympics in Kentucky,” said Alex Morin, sophomore from Grosse Ile, Mich. “I’m looking forward to plunging for the first time with all my friends and helping out.”

Last year, the Plunge raised a record-breaking $95,000 in support of the Special Olympics. This year, their goal is to reach $90,000.

“We have a very dedicated group of volunteers from Murray and Marshall County that actually produce the event,” said Candace Thompson, special events director for Special Olympics in Kentucky. “They work very hard for several months leading up to the event to recruit plungers, promote the event, line out logistics and set up the event. Many of them are Special Olympics coaches, so they have vested interest in our program.”

The Polar Plunge raises significant funding and provides year-round sports training for athletic competition for more than 6,000 children and adults with disabilities in Kentucky each year, Thompson said.

Sarah Sunderman, senior from Mascoutah, Ill. participated in the event last year in Illinois with a group of friends from work. This year, she has raised almost $200 this year and is planning on participating in Kentucky.

“I had heard about (the Polar Plunge) so we got a big group together and we raised money and did it all as a group,” said Sunderman. “We dressed up and participated all together. It was just a great experience. It’s a great opportunity and it’s a blast to do. Just get a group of friends together and do something for a good cause.”

Story by Savannah Sawyer, Assistant Features Editor.