Polar Plunge raises funds for Special Olympics

PARKERSBURG – Plunging temperatures added a little extra chill to the first Polar Plunge for Special Olympics West Virginia at Point Park.

One of those taking the plunge Saturday afternoon was Cecil Chapman, of Parkersburg, who said he was doing it in memory of his mother.

“This is in memory of my mother who used to work with the Special Olympics for many years and my best friend’s wife asked me to do it,” he said. “So I decided to do it in her memory.”

Cheryl Baxter, one of the organizers of the first Polar Plunge, said the turnout was encouraging for future plunges.

“We became aware Morgantown, Charleston and Beckley had plunges for Special Olympics and we didn’t,” she said. “Parkersburg needed to since this is where Special Olympics (in West Virginia) started.”

Baxter said each of those taking the plunge had to raise $50 in pledges or donate $50 to be part of the plunge.

“We had 41 today, but we were hoping for 141, but for the first year we’ll go with that,” she said. “It will be bigger next year. We are tickled to death they are here.”

Baxter said an above-ground pool was used for safety reasons.

“There’s a strong current and we have a lot of river traffic in this part of the river,” she said of the event, which was held at the new amphitheater at Point Park, along the Ohio River. “It’s more appealing to jump into the cool water in a pool; the river makes a good backdrop.”

Baxter said the plunge was followed up with a warm-up party at the Blennerhassett Hotel.

Others said they did it for the fun and to raise funds for a worthy cause.

“I’m a teacher at PHS (Parkersburg High School) and my mom works in special education for Wood County Schools, I thought it was a great cause” said Wayne Jenkins, another of those who jumped into the icy water. “I can mark if off my bucket list.”

Jenkins said this is probably the last time he will take the polar plunge.

“Next year I’ll probably raise money for it, give it to them and watch.”

Jim Pursley, an assistant coach for the Parkersburg South High School swim team, said seven members of the team came out.

“We asked the kids to come out after they got back from the state meet in Morgantown,” he said. “We had one girl and seven boys come out for this along with me and Steve Lutz.”