The icy fundraising event known as the Polar Plunge benefiting Special Olympics Arkansas will take place Jan. 26 at Pine Bluff Regional Park.
For the second year a 5K run/walk will be a part of the fun and meant to be an alternative — or an addition — to the Plunge.
SOA Area IX Director Travis Chisom is looking forward to welcoming a large crowd.
“It’s hard to explain the level of commitment of the people who turn out for these kids in Special Olympics,” Chisom said.”We have a group associated with Fairfield Federal Credit Union who are planning a Super Plunge, which involves taking part in 12 separate plunges beginning at 2 a.m. and then every hour until 2 p.m. when they are joined by the rest of the plungers.”
Chisom said warming tents will be set up at the edge of the water to allow participants to dry off in comfortable surroundings.
“We have a fundraising goal of $15,000 this year,” Chisom said. “So far the best we’ve done was in 2011 when we raised $9,900. Each participant must raise a minimum of $50 in pledges. We are getting some good feedback on the level of interest in this year’s event. You never know until the day of the plunge about how many people will be there but we are optimistic.”
Chisom explained the importance of the 5K run/walk to the success of the event.
“Last year we started a 5K run/walk and anticipated having 50 or 60 folks and ended up with 135,” Chisom said. “We are hoping to top that number this year by having a little more advance publicity. We’re putting up posters as well as entry forms around the area. The run/walk is an alternative to the plunge. At 3.2 miles it’s doable by just about everyone. We’ll also have a 12-and-under age group for any school kids that may want to participate. We are optimistic about the turnout on that.”
Pat Costello has been doing his part for Special Olympics for several decades.
“Special Olympics is a good cause,” Costello said. “I’ve known Travis [Chisom] for probably 50 years. He has a son who is a Special Olympian and I have worked at their summer games for probably 30 years. As Travis advanced and became director of Area IX we continued to do what we could to help out.”
“All the money raised goes to a good cause and that’s the main thing,” Costello said. “As far as this plunging goes that goes right along with it. We just tagged along to support our friends and the kids.”
Costello is one of the hardy souls who will be making multiple plunges as part of the Super Plunge.
“I and some of my good friends go camping together and once I told them about the Special Olympics Polar Plunge they were very supportive about participating,” Costello said. “They know a good cause when they see it. We’re going to go out there and have fun. We’ll get some money raised and have some fun.”
Costello said jumping into frigid water is not so hard when looking at the dedication of the Special Olympics kids.
“These kids participate in events in March and April when the weather is cold and wet but they have a good time despite the weather,” Costello said. “It gives you inspiration.”
Costello said his group is planning to bring a hot tub with them to enable quicker recovery times from the cold water dives they will endure.
Harold Davis has been working with Special Olympians associated with Jenkins Memorial Center for 35 years.
“While I was earning my degree in physical education from UAPB I did my student teaching at Jenkins,” Davis said. “I worked with them on P.E. and was asked to volunteer to help them train for the Special Olympics. Right after graduation in 1977 I was hired by Jenkins and part of my duties was to train them for the Special Olympics. I’m now a classroom teacher but I still train them for the Special Olympics.”
Davis said he will be plunging with a group of fellow employees from Jenkins and fellow Civitan Club members.
Details on the fundraiser: Visit www.firstgiving.com/soar/ pine-bluff-polar-plunge or contact Travis Chisom, Area IX director, Special Olympics Arkansas, 489-3881.
Registration for the 5K run/walk will be from 9 a.m. until 10:15 a.m. with the event beginning at 10:30 a.m.
Registration for the plunge will begin at 1 p.m. with the plunge expected to take place at 2 p.m.