Special Olympics gears up for Polar Plunge

ALPENA – Local law enforcement and Michigan Special Olympics in Alpena are hosting the annual Polar Plunge on Feb. 22. The popular, but cold, event is a fundraiser in which the money raised helps cover the cost of sending the local athletes to state competitions and other operational expenses.

After being held indoors at Plaza Pool last year the event is returning to take place on Long Lake where a hole will be cut into the ice behind the Parker House Restaurant and participants will jump into the icy water.

Michigan Special Olympics Area Director Lorell Whitscell said people often find sponsors to cover the $75 cost to jump in the lake and others pay out of their own pocket. She said the event has been getting larger each year and people are fighting more for bragging rights.

“It started out as a small group six years ago and now we get 30 to 40,” Whitscell said. “There is a lot of competition to see who can raise the most money, do the most jumps, or have the best costume. It is a great event whether you are taking part or just coming to watch it unfold.”

Whitscell said the environment is made as safe as possible. She said members of the Michigan State Police dive team will be in the water to assist the jumpers and handle any issues that take place. Whitscell said being in the pool was nice, but the event has more appeal on the lake and on the ice.

“It is great to be back on the ice,” Whitscell. “It just adds a higher level of excitement and anticipation and I think the people enjoy it more. We have police there and an ambulance and we do everything we can to make the event fun for everyone, but to also make sure that nobody gets hurt.”

To register for the event you can do so at somi.org, or pay the entry fee at the event which begins at 3 p.m. There will be prizes for the winners of various categories, including best costume, Most money earned by a team, an individual, as well as the most money raised by a Special Olympic athlete.

“We have had several of the athletes participate and this year we already have five,” Whitscell said. “Half of the funds help us defray the cost to send them to the state meets and the other half goes to our local area accounts. It covers the cost of meals, rooms, medals and transportation. the more that is raised the lower our costs will be.”

For more information people can call the Michigan Special Olympics office in Alpena at 727-4445.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.