Special Olympics preparing for 5th annual Polar Plunge in Cape Girardeau County

Friday, February 4, 2011
From left, Lindsey Wehmeyer, Lucas Blattel and Laura Boos, volunteers with the Special Olympics, work on sorting T-shirts Thursday in preparation for Saturday's Polar Plunge at Lake Boutin at Trail of Tears State Park. (Kristin Eberts)

For this frigid water sport, swimsuits are optional -- so to speak.

You'll find all kinds Saturday afternoon at Lake Boutin in Trail of Tears State Park for the fifth annual Polar Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics Missouri's Southeast Area.

There will be dunkers in swim trunks, even the occasional Speedo. But polar plungers also can come decked out in brightly colored T-shirts or as giant slushy drinks.

"One year we had Smurfs who were all blue," said Penny Williams, recreation manager for the city of Cape Girardeau and director of the Special Olympics' Southeast Area. "They were really blue when they came out of the water."

Wetsuit wearers, however, need not apply. This frigid get-together isn't for the faint of heart.

As of Thursday, nearly 230 people were signed up to take the plunge, up from last year's 210 participants.

The fundraising goal is $60,000, up from last year's mark of $46,000. Plunge money helps fund the cost of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 15,000 athletes participate in 21 Olympic-type sports throughout the state.

Spanning 14 counties from north of St. Louis to the Bootheel, the Southeast Area supports programs for some 1,100 athletes. Competitive events include track and field in April, softball in July and the big outdoor competition in August. Last summer, 700 Special Olympians descended on Cape Girardeau for golf, tennis and softball. And in a couple of weeks, Cape Girardeau will welcome nearly 90 teams for the Special Olympics' annual district basketball tournament.

"Everyone deserves the opportunity to go with a partner and win a gold medal or finish in first place in a competition, and the Special Olympics provides that for them," Williams said.

The Polar Plunge helps the athletes make it to the field of competition.

While its ultimate goal is to raise money, the plunge is one big party. Afterward, awards will be handed out, including a "Golden Plunger" award for best costumes.

With temperatures expected to be in the mid- to upper 30s Saturday afternoon, the plunge won't be quite the icy proposition it has been in years past.

"You may be cold for a split second, but you are contributing more than you realize," Williams said.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Want to go?

The fifth annual Polar Plunge at Lake Boutin in Trail of Tears State Park begins with registration at noon Saturday and the plunge starts at 2 p.m. For more information, contact Penny Williams at 339-6733 or williams@somo.org.

Pertinent address:

429 Moccasin Springs, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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