Citizens take plunge for Special Olympics fundraiser

Kate Clark

Marquette’s Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Polar Plunge will be held on Saturday, March 16 at Marquette Mountain.

Registration will begin at 1 p.m. and the actual plunge takes place at 2:30 p.m.

“Unlike some other fundraising events,” said event organizer Nicole Dahl, “participation by plunging is a little crazy and allows someone to participate in an event that not everyone is apt to do.”

The main goal of the polar plunge is to raise donations toward the Special Olympics  Michigan (SOMI), which provides training and competition to more than 19,600 athletes with disabilities.

Even though one might think the only people foolish enough to go into frigid water would be the citizens of the U.P., the polar plunge is actually a nationwide event. Texas and Florida even manage to host the event, albeit usually in chilled pools.

According to the 2013 handbook for the event, in Michigan last year, LETR raised almost $905,000 and this year it sets its sights on surpassing a million. In Marquette, Dahl said, the goal is to surpass last year’s raisings of about $9,000. This year in Michigan, 28 plunges will be taking place. The polar plunge is being sponsored across the state by Buffalo Wild Wings, as well as Starbucks, Applebee’s and Charter.

To make the jump requires a minimum $75 donation, which participants can provide themselves or through donations from supporters. Those wishing to contribute but hate the idea of actually diving in can find a plunger to sponsor on the event’s website.

As participants gain donations through sponsors, they also win incentives from a tumbler once they’ve past the $200 mark, while those who manage to raise more than $2,500 receive a mini fridge.

Participants can also forego these things and allow the item’s cost to go back to the Special Olympics. There are six incentives in total. All can be found on the event’s website at www.firstgiving.com/polarplunge/marquette.

If you’re on the fence, Dahl said no one has ever died doing the plunge and her first time, she was nervous, too.

“But the truth is, if I can do it, anyone can do it,” Dahl said.

However, the plunge isn’t the only event taking place that day. A costume parade preludes the main event.

Carla White, an organizer involved with the Jackson Polar Plunge before moving to the area, said the zany costumes are one of her favorite parts.

“It’s great to see what everyone can come up with from year to year,” White said.

The dress code for the costume parade requires participants to keep it appropriate, wear shoes and don’t obstruct your mouth or nose, which White said leaves much room for costume creativity. The person with the best costume will win the “Golden Plunger Award.”

Afterwards, awards are given out and the after party takes places. Admission is free to plungers and $5 for the general public.

The final event is the Man Carrying Woman Contest, which begins at 5 p.m. This requires a $10 registration fee, registration will be open until the competition begins, the proceeds will go to LETR. First place receives ‘woman’s weight in prizes,’ which Dahl said includes cash, a gift certificate to Elizabeth’s Chop House and drinks from Keweenaw Brewing Company and Monster Energy Drink.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run consists of law enforcement officers and corrections department employees who raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics. The campaign began in 1981 in Wichita, Kan. and currently stands with more than 142,000 volunteers in 48 countries.

LETR, the SOMI website says, made its way to Michigan in 1984 when the Central Route relay began officially fundraising for the Special Olympics. Alongside the Polar Plunge it raises money through fire truck pulls, runs and raffle tickets.

White said she expects about 50 plungers and more than 100 spectators this year.

“The plunge in Marquette is not one of our largest plunges across the state but it’s definitely one of the funniest and raises a lot of money,” White said.

The first polar plunge took place in Saginaw in 2000 and raised almost $10,000. In 2013, SOMI hopes to raise more than a million dollars.

Those who would like to help the organization reach this year’s goal or sponsor a participant, visit www.firstgiving.com/polarplunge/marquette.