In the depths of the Minnesota winter, fifteen students and staff “plunged” their way into nearly-frozen water in this year’s Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge in Rochester, Minnesota. The event, which occurred Feb 12, is one of the major fundraisers for Special Olympics Minnesota. The Carleton team was comprised of students and staff and organized largely by Mikki Showers, Director of Recreational Sports and manager of the Recreational Center, and Corey Pulju, Duplicating Coordinator. It was the second year Carleton students and staff took the icy plunge.
This year, the Minnesota Polar Plunge, supported by the Minnesota Law Enforcement, raised 2.2 million dollars from its 11,000 brave participants in fourteen different locations. The proceeds are dispersed throughout the different Minnesota counties to fund the Special Olympics. The money goes toward practice spaces, events, meets and tournaments.
“To participate in the plunge, each person needs to collect at least 75 dollars,” said Pulju. Together, the team raised nearly 3,000 dollars. The Carleton group worked hard to raise the money through events such as a pancake breakfast at the local VFW, as well as asking friends, families, and co-workers.
In Rochester, Carleton was one of fourteen groups that participated in the Plunge. Sporting neon green, the group walked through a large, plastic sculpture of a polar bear and got prepared to jump into the freezing water as their names were being announced to the crowd.
“We scream a lot and get pumped up right before” said Katie Boudreaux ’11, “and then we jump and the water is so cold, we can’t even breathe. Your mind freezes over and you frantically trying to find your way out of the water.”
Some find it scary, some insane and then there is even the occasional belly-flopper, like Tracy Barron, Mailing Services Coordinator at Carleton. “I mean I’m a big guy, I have to make a big appearance,” said Barron.
All in all, it’s a day well worth it. As Cole Rystedt ‘14, who has participated in the Plunge for his fifth year now, said “it’s good to know you’re helping someone out…and it’s exhilarating.”
Carleton College Special Olympics Coordinator Niki Tomita ’12 said, “fundraisers like the Polar Plunge are great and make it so that we can just have fun at practices. We don’t have to worry about money issues.”
“It’s a great group of people of kids and volunteers, in fact I believe that it’s all volunteer run,” said Puljah. “It’s a day full of excitement-and it’s always good to do something that you care about. I do it for the kids. And I do it for my friends.”