Polar Plunge attracts over 40 people to benefit the W.Va. Special Olympics

PARKERSBURG – More than 40 people joined the “Freezin’ for a Reason” second annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics West Virginia in City Park on Saturday afternoon.

“I saw that this was going on and the money goes to a good cause, so I figured being part of it would give me something to do and help others,” said Matt Bremar, a maintenance employee with the City of Belpre. “In the past few weeks we at the city (of Belpre) have fixed a lot of leaks and were in water most of the time, so I figured jumping in this pool wouldn’t be too bad.”

Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz and many other Belpre city employees watched Bremar participate in the plunge wearing his orange mesh safety vest and swim trunks.

“Matt is a trooper and is always willing to help someone with a smile on his face,” Lorentz said. “I am very proud of him and was not really surprised when he said he was going to do this, but I did think he was joking.

“If everyone in Belpre had Matt’s willingness to help others, this area would be a lot different place,” he added.

Bremar was one of a total of 41 people to participate in this year’s event, which saw participants collect pledges of at least $50 before they took the plunge into the 3-feet-deep swimming pool filled with freezing water, said event organizer Cheryl Baxter.

“Even though we had the same exact number of participants this year, we had some new faces,” she said, referring to last year’s inaugural event which took place at Point Park in downtown Parkersburg.

Leasa Hart and Cathy Darling, of Vienna, decided to participate in this year’s plunge after they stumbled on last year’s inaugural event while walking in Point Park.

“After watching last year’s polar plunge, we decided to learn more about the Special Olympics,” said Hart. “We volunteered for the Fall Games, plunged this year and plan to work with the Special Olympics in the future.

“Participating in this year’s Polar Plunge was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do more with the athletes,” she added. “I will be working with the Special Olympics for the rest of my life.”

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

It is unknown how much money was raised through Saturday’s event. Throughout the years each plunge has raised between $3,500 and $65,000. All funds raised through pledges raised by individual plungers will go to the athletes throughout the Special Olympics West Virginia organization.

Although the event was moved to City Park from Point Park by officials with the City of Parkersburg because of the ice at the Point, Baxter said the new venue was perfect.

“I think we will have it in City Park from now on,” Baxter said. “The location is perfect for people to find us and there are heated bathrooms here, so I don’t think we will try for the Point again.”

Many of those who took the plunge also participated in the costume contest, which took place just before the main event.

The Blennerhassett Hotel hosted a party Saturday night for those who took part in “Freezin’ for a Reason” where prizes were to be handed out for best costumes and amount of money raised.

Plans for next year’s event will begin soon, Baxter said.