Mid-Ohio Valley residents take polar plunge to raise funds for Special Olympics

Photo by Madeline Scarborough Tristian Cooper, April Cooper and Sydney McKee, 12, jump together in support of Tristian, a Special Olympics athlete.

PARKERSBURG — Residents were freezin’ for a reason on Saturday.

The seventh annual Polar Plunge, which benefits Special Olympics West Virginia, was held at the Point Park Marketplace where the plungers jumped into a pool of cold water to raise money for the organization.

The first two jumpers were April Cooper and Sydney McKee.

“I have a friend named Tristian who is a Special Olympics athlete,” McKee said.

McKee and Cooper, who is Tristian’s mother, jumped in support of him.

Photo by Madeline Scarborough Rachel Boston, a first time plunger, jumped with six-year plunger Leasa Hart, dressed as Cruella de Vil, to raise money and awareness for the West Virginia Special Olympics.

Many participants were repeat plungers.

Cathy Darling and Joe Morris have participated since year one.

“It is a good cause,” Darling said.

“I think it is really fun to come up with costume ideas as well,” Morris said.

Leasa Hart also has plunged since the first year, although she missed the 2016 event due to a hip replacement.

Photo by Madeline Scarborough Fisher Life, 12, and Garrett Mitchell, 12, jump together to show their support for West Virginia Special Olympics and all the athletes.

“I work downtown and was walking down by Point Park during a break when I first heard about the Polar Plunge,” Hart said.

“I began looking up everything I could to find out what the Special Olympics was all about, and I have been supporting the cause ever since,” she said.

Participants, either individuals or teams of four, obtained pledges from contributors for their plunge into the icy-cold pool.

David Howell, a second-year plunger, and Dee Flagg, a third-year plunger, represented their group, the Blennerhassett Corvette Association, which has collected donations for the event for years.

“We raise around $1,200 to $1,500 a year to contribute to the cause,” Howell said.

Swag was awarded to jumpers based on the amount of pledges. The more money pledged, the more swag awarded.

T-shirts were given for $50 in pledges, a mug and a T-shirt for $200, a fleece, mug and a T-shirt for $350 and a gift certificate for dinner, a fleece, a mug and a T-shirt for pledges totalling $500.

Before the plunge takes place, a costume contest is held for the plungers. Winning the individual best costume was Karen Fox, a first-year jumper.

“I can say that this is both my first and last year jumping,” Fox said.

Fox said at her age, 74, the cold was a bit much.

“I jumped for nephew Ethan McPeek, and he jumped with me just for fun,” Fox said.

The staff of the Special Olympics West Virginia also jumped.

“There are so many people throughout the community jumping to help raise money for the Special Olympics, and it is only right that we jump with them to show our appreciation,” CEO John Corbett said.