Special Olympics is reason for Polar Plunge freezin’

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Daring fundraisers dash through the shallows of the Metea County Park pond for the 2016 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Indiana and Special Olympics Allen County will host their annual Polar Plunge on Feb. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Metea County Park in northeast Fort Wayne. The event, which brings together businesses and individuals from all over northeast Indiana, helps raise funds for state and local Special Olympics programs, according to a release from Special Olympics Indiana.

These programs “allow children and adults with intellectual disabilities to live active lives through socialization, exercise and friendly competition,” the release states. Currently there are more than 13,000 athletes that participate in at least one sport through Special Olympics in Indiana.

Plungers are invited to take a dip in Metea Park’s ice-cold pond before enjoying the After Splash Bash with food and beverages at the Metea Park Nature Center.

Past Fort Wayne plunges have had more than 100 plungers apiece and have raised more than $10,000, according to the release.

Ryan Clark, 11th-grade English teacher at Leo High School, has been participating in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge for eight years. Each year, he also seeks to extend the opportunity to students.

“The way we grow most in life is by getting out of our comfort zones and doing things that are uncomfortable for something that is for the greater good,” Clark said. “I think most students will look back and say even though it was painful for those few minutes, it was really worth it because of the good that came out of it.”

Jumping in freezing cold water is “definitely out of most people’s comfort zones” he added with a laugh, but will result in personal growth while benefiting others.

Clark recommends fellow plungers wear old shoes that “it doesn’t matter if they get a little bit mucky and dirty,” socks, shorts and a long sleeved shirt — and don’t forget a change of clothes and a towel.

To prospective participants, he asks, “Are you going to sit around, watching TV on a Saturday morning or are you going to do something in the world?”

It is sure to be “a morning you won’t forget,” he adds.

To participate, register online at polarplungeIN.org, raise a minimum of $75 in pledges and arrive at Metea County Park between 8-10 a.m. Local businesses and schools are encouraged to get involved by putting together teams of plungers and helping to raise funds. Prizes are awarded for fundraising levels met and door prizes will be drawn at the After Splash Bash.

Special Olympics is seeking door prize donations, sponsors and event volunteers as well.

For more information, contact Julie Burkholder at jburkholder@soindiana.org or (260) 466-1528 or online by visiting polarplungeIN.org.