Polar Bear Plunge gives funds to Special Olympics, fun for others


Blake Becker

BRRR: The polar bear plunge is set to take place at Stephen's Lake on Feb. 18 to provide funding for the Special Olympics .
To survive in the wastelands of the Arctic tundra, polar bears have great strength, massive stores of stamina and the resolve to forge a fiery path through any blizzard. This Feb. 18 Missourians will gather for the Polar Bear Plunge, where, like polar bears,  they cast themselves into the chilly waters of Stephens’ Lake.
The Polar Bear Plunge is a Special Olympics fundraising program held annually across the nation. It gathers donations to help fund other Special Olympic programs and other expenses, Special Olympics organizer Diane Brimer said.
“It goes for providing the area and local events that we offer to our athletes, so facility costs, those types of things, it does help us buy the medals and ribbons we give to every athlete at the competitions they go to,” Brimer said. “It helps with a variety of things like with getting our new programs kicked off. Like when we get a new group with some new athletes from a particular location, we help get them going with uniforms and equipment, potentially transportation and a few things like that. The Polar Bear Plunge here in Columbia is really to help out the athletes of central Missouri, which we currently have 2,223 counting. We have a large area with a large number of athletes and it takes quite a bit of money to make that happen.”
The event requires participants to raise at least $75. Those who raise $300 or more receive prizes like sweatshirts and exclusive Polar Bear Plunge attire. The organization also encourages plungers to have a theme, or wear a costume while they plunge. The polar bears however, are more focused on the fabled Golden Plunger than the prizes, Brimer said.
“Honestly, I’m not really sure people are that interested in the prizes, but I’ll tell you what they strive for is the Golden Plunger Award, we five out a first, second and third place group and a first second, third place individual award for costumes, and people are crazy. It’s a plunger.” Brimer said. “It’s just what they go for. They really want to win the golden plunger award for their costume. They take real pride in that, and if that’s what motivates them, great.”
Organizers for Polar Bear Plunge try to attract as many participants and donors as possible, gathering around 400 participants each year for the past three years. The plunge has been in Columbia. For the past five years and reaches to every part of the community to reel in support, Brimer said.
“We have school fundraising prizes. We have college prizes, community prizes, so we really try to get out there,” she said, “Last year Hickman had the fundraising group for the high school. We do a fundraising thing for high schools and middle schools, and Hickman was a top fundraising high school for that year.”
Even though Hickman High School came out on top last year, Rock Bridge High School students were able to donate and enjoy the frigid water, junior Richard Sapp said.
“It was a lot of fun because there was a lot of people, people dressed up in ridiculous things and there’s really no other reason than just jumping in ice cold water,” Sapp said, “Yeah, the thrill is pretty enjoyable. I mean, it’s freezing so you get up in the morning, you get to some ice water, and you jump in. I mean, what else could you ask for?”
 By Blake Becker