By Annie Fitzpatrick
The cold temperatures on April 14 didn’t stop a group of students and community members from plunging into the Coralville Resevoir to support Special Olympics Iowa.
The polar plunge is a nationwide fundraiser for Special Olympics that raises money to support the organization, and its efforts to provide sports activities and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Teams at the plunge raised a minimum of $75 to participate, and their donations went to the Special Olympics community of Iowa. For every $75 donation, a team’s name was entered in a raffle to win a door prize.
The plunge was done in groups as each team ran into the lake. In the water, the Johnson County Metro Diving team cleared a path for participants and patrolled in the water to keep the plunge safe. The diving squad was equipped with cold suits that kept the team members warm in the freezing water.
Russ Dunn, who was in charge of the diving team, said the squad’s role was to remove any dangerous debris from the water and help the plungers out of the water if they had any trouble.
University of Iowa student Zach Carbonara, who participated in the plunge with his fraternity, said the plunge was a great opportunity to give to the area.
“Seeing the community come together to revolve around something that’s bigger than [us] is really cool,” he said.
Mary Besler, the Special Olympics Iowa law-enforcement Torch Run coordinator, put together the plunge.
“My favorite part is just seeing people run into the lake and that … they’re doing it to raise money for our Special Olympic athletes,” she said.
Despite cold weather, the plunge had a large turnout, and each team ran into the freezing water with little hesitation. Some participants wore costumes for the plunge while taking on the temperatures.
After plunging, team members went into a warming tent where they recovered. Another tent at the event was set up with picnic tables and a buffet of food for participants to gather after they had finished.
UI student Brad Drazner, who participated in the event with his fraternity, said his chapter raised money to send a team to take the plunge.
“Raising money for something … such as Special Olympics, I just think it’s really great that everybody came together to do something,” he said.
Student Molly Gilbert, a member of the Special Olympics UI chapter, joined the organization this spring, but she has been involved with Special Olympics her whole life. The shock of the cold and running back to the warm tent was what made the event so fun, she said.
The event concluded in the warming tent filled with food for participants to enjoy. Teams gathered at tables and talked about the event while draping blankets around them to keep them warm.
Special Olympics Iowa organizes fundraisers such as the polar plunge each year to support its cause and bring athletics competition and fun to the community and individuals with intellectual disabilities.