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February 24th, 2011 |


By Matt Miller


Making a splash for Special Olympics Iowa


What do a chicken, a tutu and a college football team have in common? They are each a part of the annual polar plunge coming to Lake Ahquabi in Indianola March 5.

"I've done it. It's a lot of fun," said Polar Plunge committee chairperson Randy Spur. "Sometimes people are nervous because of the cold water, but it's always fun to see people's reactions as they enter the water wearing various costumes. It's fun to see their faces before they go in compared to when they're coming back out of the water."

The "Polar Plunge, Freezin' For a Reason" event is making a its fifth annual stop in Indianola among its 13 other scheduled locations (including Des Moines on Nov. 12) in support of Special Olympics Iowa. Proceeds from each event go to the year-round sports training and competition programs for more than 11,350 individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout the state.

Registration for the event will be held at the Warren County Courthouse's first floor meeting room March 4 from 5 to 7 p.m., or participants can sign up the day of the event at 11 a.m. Everyone takes the plunge at noon. Several people have chosen to do the plunge as a team, including the Simpson College football team, which is a long-time supporter of the event, Spur said.

"They wear a different costume every year," Spur said. "Last year Coach Paul Davis dressed in football clothes and a tutu. It's different every year."

The tutu was a favorite diving suit earning Davis a prize for the best costume. The contests are divided into individual or team categories. The most important contest category involves the amount of money raised for the cause. The person who raises the most money also wins a prize. Incentive prizes start at $250.

Participants are encouraged to bring donations to the event, which will earn them a T-shirt, door prize tickets and post party meals for spectators.

The post party ends the cold day with warm food, music, drinks and drawings in heated tents on location. For every $60 raised, the entrant's name is put into a drawing to win door prizes.

But what about the chicken? People who are "too chicken to take the plunge," can register as a chicken and raise pledges, receive a chicken T-shirt and watch the event. This year there's a full team of chickens (10 or more) who've already signed up, but Spur said there are about 25 chickens registered so far.

There are already 18 teams registered to actually take the plunge, and Spur's confident that this year's event will reach its goal of more than $20,000 raised for Special Olympics Iowa. In its first year, the Polar Plunge event raised about $10,000.

Spur said participation numbers are up compared to last year. And team numbers are up, too. About 200 people are expected to turn out. CV


Caption: The Yellow Submarine Team had an interesting costume at last year's Polar Plunge at Lake Ahquabi in Indianola.


Sidebar: athlete profile

Shawn Peterson of Des Moines has participated in Special Olympics Iowa for 32 years. She trains and competes in basketball, bowling, softball, volleyball and skiing. She has also competed at the 2006 and 2010 USA Special Olympics National Games. Peterson says she likes Special Olympics, because she gets to meet lots of wonderful people, and she loves competing in sports.