Hundreds take plunge at Trail of Tears on Saturday for Special Olympics

Sunday, February 5, 2012
The Rubber Duckies team makes a splash Saturday during the 2012 Polar Plunge at the Trail of Tears State Park's Lake Boutin. (Kristin Eberts)

More than 300 people took a dip in Trail of Tears State Park's Lake Boutin on Saturday to help raise money for a good cause.

The sixth annual Cape Girardeau Polar Plunge was part of a statewide fundraising effort for the Special Olympics. Before Saturday nights' Post Plunge Party, which included dinner and a silent auction, $39,265 had been raised toward the goal of $50,000. The Polar Plunge is one of many Special Olympics events planned throughout the year and the biggest fundraiser in the Southeast Area.

"The event in Cape Girardeau has more than doubled in size since its first year," said Penny Williams, area director of Southeast Missouri Special Olympics. There were 307 people who plunged Saturday, making it a record year for Southeast Missouri. Williams said one reason for this may be the higher temperatures.

What started off as a foggy morning in the lower 50s became an afternoon of partly cloudy skies hitting about 60 degrees, with a water temperature of 46 degrees.

"This is the warmest year ever and the first year there wasn't a blanket of snow on the ground," Williams said.

Participants, known as plungers, dressed in everything from swimsuits to elaborate costumes and participated in a parade before taking the plunge.

The parade gave judges a chance to see all the costumes and to select the teams and individuals for the gold, silver and bronze plunger awards.

Plungers came from all over Southeast Missouri, including Fredricktown, Dexter, Piedmont, Sikeston, Perryville, Kelso, Marble Hill and Farmington.

The Kelso Krazies went with a Titanic theme: Nine people dressed in a cardboard boat and one as an iceberg. As they entered the water, the boat collided with the iceberg and broke into pieces.

Employees from the Southeast Correctional Center dressed in pink tutus and black shirts that read "It Is Tu Tu Cold."

The Southeast Missouri State University Greek community also was represented. One of the eight girls from the Alpha Chi Omega sorority that plunged said they took part because it was a "fun, crazy, way to help and be interactive with the community."

Daniel Folks, a Special Olympics athlete since 1999, said he has participated in the plunge every year.

Other states also were represented. Mark Slattery and Jackie Richey of California are traveling across the U.S. visiting sporting events.

Richey said they wanted to participate because "Special Olympics is about opening sports up for all people."

In addition to the plungers, there were hundreds of spectators and many volunteers. The Cape Girardeau Kiwanis International was on hand cooking hot dogs, which they have done every year. Volunteers from Southeast's girl's soccer team, the Sig Tau fraternity, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and Cape County Ambulance helped out with the event.

Pertinent address:

Trail of Tears State Park, Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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