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Freezin' for a Reason

Greensburg Daily News - 2/19/2019

Feb. 19--VERSAILLES

On Saturday, over 150 athletes and their families celebrated togetherness, accomplishment and very cold water at Versailles State Park to benefit Special Olympics.

With this year's event marking the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, it has become an important traditional Hoosier event, and the beautiful crisp blue skies at Versailles State Park Saturday set an attractive stage for a lot of joy, camaraderie, and winter fun for the Special Olympics community.

The Polar Plunge is a series of exhilarating events held each winter where individuals and teams brave the elements by taking an icy dip in a natural body of water to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. Each Polar Plunge event has its own unique personality, with additional activities ranging from dance music to costume contests to 5K fundraising races and the always popular "After Splash Bash"

SO athlete and Batesville Middle School student Isaac Kramer participated in the 5K and the Plunge, winning a medal for placing third overall in the 5K and first in his age group. He was very excited about the victory.

"I have a lot of trophies and I'll put this with them when I get home," Isaac said.

His trainer, Jim Laub, has worked with Isaac for almost a year now. "I wasn't expecting him to run since we haven't had practice since last fall, but he did it, and his time was good. He's a very active kid anyway, and he's very motivated."

For the Plunge itself, participants are required raise a "bear" minimum of $75 ($50 for students) each and are encouraged to form teams of 10 -- Special Olympics athletes, their families, or just staunch supporters of the cause, who are then allowed to take the "daring dip" into Indiana's winter waters.

With emergency personnel from Dearborn County garbed in insulated wet suits marking off the appropriate plunge area and the beachside cheering squad, the three events served as a festive way to shrug off the gloom a typical Indiana winter's day can create.

"That water is 42 degrees today," said attending EMT Megan Keith of Dearborn County. "Not as cold as it has been in previous years, but still hard on a body."

Dearborn County Fire/Rescue Captain Bill Black said, "This is always a good group; we never have any issues with them. It's always a good event, and we enjoy it almost as much as the athletes do."

When asked about this year's water temperature versus previous years, Black said, "Well there have been years when we've had to cut the ice on the water with a chainsaw to create a space for the plunge, so this year, it's not too cold."

Decatur County Plunge Team Captain Chief of Police Brendan Bridges and Lieutenant Wayne Davis also participated in the plunge.

"I have done this for years because I support these kids. They deserve to have this kind of attention and glory, plus it gives them a chance to be with their peers, and that means a lot to them as well. Special Olympics is just so good for them," Bridges said.

When asked what first ran through his mind as he got into the water, Lieutenant Davis said, "I expected the water to be colder!"

Serving more than 16,000 intellectually and physically disabled people across the state each year, Special Olympics'Indiana goal is to raise at least $1 million.

"We recognize that this is a special moment in our history and we're planning big things for both our 50th anniversary and for the future of the Special Olympics movement in Indiana," said President and CEO Jeff Mohler. "The Polar Plunge is our most important fundraiser each year, and we know that in order for us to reach our goals and to involve even more people who could benefit from our services, our supporters around the state will pull together this winter to raise more than ever before."

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com

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(c)2019 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.)

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