Special Olympics Missouri prepares for weekend plunge

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More than 200 people will take an icy dip in Lake Boutin on Saturday at the 2010 Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Missouri.

Penny Williams, southeast area management team member for Special Olympics Missouri, said the event consists of participants jumping, diving or crawling into the cold waters of Lake Boutin in Trail of Tears State Park. Swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits and are encouraged to wear costumes.

This year's plunge will be the largest Cape Girardeau has hosted.

"This is our fourth year for the Cape plunge, and it is our biggest year yet. Our first year we had 75 plungers, and it has steadily grown. At first I wondered if people would actually do it, and they do," Williams said.

This year there will be 13 plunges throughout Missouri. Last year the Cape Girardeau plunge generated $32,000 and Williams plans to exceed that amount this year.

"Our goal is to raise $36,000, but I think we will exceed that. We have had an onslaught of registrations this week," she said.

To participate in the plunge, swimmers must raise at least $50 by the day of the event. In addition to soliciting donations from friends and neighbors, participants also created personal fundraising web pages to generate money.

For those who are wondering about the wisdom of taking a dip in a lake in early February, Williams said Cape plungers have yet to get sick as a result of the event.

"It is actually a pretty controlled environment. There are also warming tents for the plungers to go to after they get out of the water," she said.

In addition to prizes for the top fundraisers, the Golden Plunger Award will be given to the most creative costume worn at the plunge. Winners will be selected by a panel of celebrity judges, including local disc jockey Bobbi Ann Mason; Bob Neff, principal dealer of Ford Groves car dealership; and Jim Riley, chief executive officer of Red Letter Communications.

Following the swim, participants will be treated to a post-plunge party at Buckner Brewing Co. in Cape Girardeau. Every plunger will also receive an official Polar Plunge sweat shirt.

To register or to receive more information about the plunge, visit www.somo.org, or call 339-6733.

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