An annual tradition for more than twenty years, Special Olympics Indiana again hosted supporters this past weekend at Versailles State Park to make a splash for athletes across the state. The 2022 Polar Plunge a series of exhilarating events where individuals and teams braved the elements by taking an icy dip to demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
As the organization’s signature fundraiser, the Polar Plunge directlybenefits more that 18,000 Special Olympics athletes throughout Indiana and plays a vital role in ensuring that an ever-growing number of children and adults with intellectual disabilities continue to benefit from no-cost participation in life-changing sports, health, education, and leadership programs.
A total of seventeen Polar Plunge events will be held in January, February and March this year, with sites in Boonville, Borden, Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Greenwood, Indianapolis (Butler University and Eagle Creek Park), Muncie, North Manchester, Petersburg, South Bend, Terre Haute, Valparaiso, Versailles, and West Lafayette.
“Our athletes never pay to participate in Special Olympics, and the money raised through the Polar Plunge is a big reason why that’s possible,” said Versailles Plunge Chairman and Special Olympics Indiana – Ripley Ohio Dearborn Counties’ Program Coordinator, Greg Townsend. “It’s incredible to see hundreds of people supporting our cause by jumping into freezing water every year. And each and everyone of them is a champion for inclusion in our community and for people with intellectual disabilities.”
Seventy-four individuals participated in the Freezin’ for a Reason Fun Run/Walk on the morning of the Plunge at Versailles State Park. Each participant received a finisher’s medal for their efforts. The race was timed by StuartRoadRacing.com. Participants can look up their finishing time by visiting StuartRoadRacing.com.
Dearborn County Water Rescue, with assistance from the Indiana Conservation/DNR, Osgood Volunteer Fire Dept., and the Versailles Volunteer Fire Dept., spent the morning cutting ice from the lake to create a safe plunging area. Over one-hundred brave souls jumped into the icy water, a “balmy” 38 degrees, that afternoon, including several local organizations, schools, fire and police departments and sport teams.
More than 3,000 individuals take the Plunge in a typical year across the state, each raising a minimum of $85 and often significantly more. All Plungers who raised the minimum earned an official Polar Plunge long-sleeved t-shirt, with additional prizes including souvenir blankets, beach towels, and more awarded to those who reached higher fundraising thresholds.
After the Plunge at Versailles State Park, several individuals and teams were recognized for their “Freezin for a Reason” efforts. The South Dearborn High School Penguin Party team, raised $3,347, was granted the Team Spirit award for their costumes and enthusiastic Plunge. Raising $11,479, the Knights of Columbus and Lions Club team was recognized as the team raising the most money. Special Olympics athlete and Knights of Columbus member, Matthew Menchhofer, was recognized as the individual raising the most money. Menchhofer raised $4,491, considered a “Super Plunger,” will be Plunging a second time at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis in March. The Greensburg Police Department received the honors in the Public Safety Challenge, raising $969 for the cause. In the Cool School Challenge, Amy Mitchell, Special Olympics athlete raising $551, received the Star Student award for raising the most money for her South Ripley High School team. The Top Teacher/Coach was award to Brenda Strimple from South Ripley High School. The South Ripley team, 34 members strong, also received the award for the largest Cool School team. The Overall Top Cool School Challenge award was awarded for the 13th year in a row to South Ripley High School. The team raised a record amount of $8,745.
The Polar Plunge is presented by the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Indiana, and is financially or in-kindly supported locally by the District 28 Knights of Columbus, Batesville Chrysler Dodge Jeep, Batesville Fraternal Orders of Eagles, Best Way Disposal, North Dearborn Conservation Club, FCN Bank, Ferrell Gas, Haag Ford, Hardy Insurance Group, The Hassmer House Tavern + Inn, Integrity Tools, Inc., Iron Timbers, Jeff Wyler Lawrenceburg, Lions Club Aurora, Lions Clubs of Ripley County, McDonalds, Mercy Health, Napoleon State Bank, Penske Truck Rental, Signarama Lawrenceburg, Steve’s Sunoco St. Leon, StuartRoadRacing.com, The Eagle 99.3, and Southeastern Indiana REMC.
The “unofficial” total raised at the Versailles Plunge is currently at $46,467, only $3,500 short of the organizing committee’s goal of $50,000. Individual Plunger online fundraising pages are still live. Anyone wishing to support a Plunger’s efforts, after the fact, may still do so. Please visit soindiana-rod.org/polarplunge and select “Support A Plunger.” Or donations can be mailed to 429 Manchester St., Aurora, IN 47001.
Special Olympics Indiana would like to specially thank Versailles State Park, Dearborn County Water Rescue, Indiana Conservation/DNR, Osgood and Versailles Volunteer Fire Dept., Ripley County Sheriff’s Dept., Ripley County EMS, the Milan Boy Scouts, District 28 Knights of Columbus, and the Lions Clubs of Ripley County.