Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympians

PARKERSBURG – Special Olympics West Virginia is hoping for a lot of cold weather lovers to fill Point Park for the second annual Polar Plunge “Freezin’ for a Reason” at 3 p.m. Feb. 8.

“We had a promising turnout for our first polar plunge last year and hope to have a fantastic turnout this year,” said Cheryl Baxter, a volunteer organizer of the event. “Honestly, because it was our first year it was a little shaky, but we have had a lot of people interested, so I’m sure we will have more participants this year.”

Last year’s plunge, which took place Feb. 16 at Point Park, saw 41 participants.

“We are hoping for a lot more people this year,” Baxter said. “I have talked to a lot of people who have said they wanted to participate last year and didn’t know when it is, so I think it will be a lot bigger this time around.”

Parkersburg is one of five cities throughout the state – along with Charleston, Morgantown, Beckley and Summersville – to hold a Special Olympics polar plunge, which Baxter said has become a national event for the organization.

Participants, who can be individuals or teams of four representing themselves or organizations, will collect pledges to take the plunge into the ice-cold pool, Baxter said.

All funds raised through pledges raised by individual plungers will go to the athletes throughout the Special Olympics West Virginia organization.

Throughout the years each plunge has raised between $3,500 and $65,000.

All participants will receive a T-shirt and an invitation to the post-plunge party at the Blennerhassett Hotel on Market Street. The cost is $5 for non-plungers to attend the party.

The minimum pledge amount is $50. Participants with $200 in pledges also will receive a glass mug. Those with $350 will add a fleece jacket.

Participants who raise $500 or more in pledges will receive all of the above as well as a gift certificate for dinner, Baxter said.

Not only will participants win prizes for their fundraising efforts, but also those who participate in the costume contest, which will take place before the plunge at 2:30 p.m.

Corporate sponsorships and donations are being solicited for prizes, Baxter said.

Entry forms are available at www.sowv.org or by calling Special Olympics at 304-345-9310.

Participants younger than 18 must have a release signed by the parents or guardians.

Registration is from 1:30-2:45 p.m. Registration forms can be mailed to Special Olympics WV, 1206 Virginia St. East, Suite 100, Charleston, WV 25301.

At 2:55 p.m., a presentation on how to survive the jump will be held prior to the 3 p.m. start of the Polar Plunge.

Swimsuits must be worn, T-shirts optional, and participants can jump in with their costumes, Baxter said. Tents and restrooms will be available to change immediately after taking the plunge, she said.

Participants are advised to bring extra clothing and towels, shoes or slippers and a jacket or robe. No diving will be permitted.

The pool will be at the amphitheater at Point Park, Baxter said.

The event will take place regardless of the weather, rain or shine, hot or cold, Baxter said. There is no such thing as too cold for the Polar Plunge, according to Baxter.

Paramedics will be available at the event, Baxter said.

In the event of high water, the plunge will be moved to City Park.