“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The oath for the Special Olympics adequately describes the courage of all those who came out to participate Saturday in the 2014 Polar Plunge fundraiser to benefit Arkansas Special Olympics.
The sixth annual event was held at Regional Park where more than 40 people braved the chilly lake waters to help raise funds to support the organization.
Arkansas Special Olympics Executive Director Terri Weir said there are 23 plunges held throughout the state of Arkansas and January is peak season. She said, however, that cold weather never seems to be a deterrent.
“We have seen temps so cold, we’ve had to use drills and saws to hack through the water,” she said.
Thankfully for Saturday’s plungers, no drills or saws were needed. But regardless of the weather, Area IX Director Travis Chisom said people have shown up each year and “it keeps growing.
“Our people look forward to the plunge because it’s a unique way to do something good,” Chisom said.
A repeat plunger since 2010, Brad Self said” “It’s cold, but it’s addictive.”
Self, a store director at Brookshire’s, said Special Olympics is a big motivation for him, but “you have to be a little crazy for this.”
Self said he likes to make the plunge as much fun as possible.
“I run until I can’t run anymore, then I dive in headfirst,” he said.
Other plungers, some veterans and others going in for the first time, had their own ideas about the best strategy. Molly and Paul Kuykendall, a father-daughter team, planned to run in, take a couple of strokes and get out as quickly as possible.
Along with individual plungers, groups that took the icy dip included Jenkins Center, Arkansas Department of Correction, Brookshire’s, Fairfield Federal Credit Union and a group from the Dumas School District. Fully dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz, the Dumas group also took home the prize for best costume.
Chisom took the final courageous, lone plunge. Soaked from the neck down, he smiled and waved to the crowd cheering him on from the bank.
Registration to participate in the plunge was $50. Recognition was given to the individual and the group that raised the most funds.
Winners this year were James “Peanut” Johnson, who raised $2,000, and Fairfield Federal Credit Union for it’s $2,500 donation.
Total funds raised for the plunge were $9,081. Combined with the $3,700 raised from Saturday’s 5K Run and Polar Tug, activities preceding the plunge, the organization slightly exceeded it’s goal of $12,000.
“We wanted to exceed what we did last year,” Chisom said.
According to Chisom,100 percent of the proceeds go to Special Olympics which provides year-round sports training and Olympic-style athletic competition to children and adults with disabilities.
“They do a lot more than just run track, like some people think,” he said. “They also compete in bowling, basketball, flag football, and bocce.”
Funds cover expenses for the athletes to compete and travel, including lodging, registration fees, and food.
“Everything we do is for the kids,” Chisom said.