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Community plunges for Special Olympics

  • Victoria Huss, sophomore nursing major, hurries to get to dry land with the help of volunteers after jumping into the icy water with fellow Chi Omega sisters Saturday morning at Moose Lake. (Jennifer Pendarvis)
  • Willy Wonka and trusty Oompa Loompas take the plunge in a not-so-chocolate lake Saturday morning at the Polar Plunge held at Moose Lake. (Jennifer Pendarvis)
  • Participants dressed as Guess Who? characters feel the shock of the freezing water for the Polar Plunge on Saturday. (Jennifer Pendarvis)
  • Angel Garcia, Emporia community member, rocks as a guitar hero dressed as a ballerina while he cartwheels into the water Saturday at Mourse Lake. (Jennifer Pendarvis)
  • A participant suits up in a wedding dress and tosses her bouquet to a rescue team member as she jump into the polar temperatures. (Jennifer Pendarvis)

Though last Saturday was supposed to be up in the 50s, the Annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge had to take the time to cut a hole in the ice of Mouse Lake for this year’s set of plungers.

“I did jump in, but not on Saturday. I jump(ed) on Friday after setting up everything,” said Beau Jenkins, sophomore management information systems major. “The name does not lie. When I hit the water, my body immediately felt an intense chill around it. The best feeling was getting out.”

Jenkins and other players of the Emporia State football team helped at this year’s Plunge by setting up tents, taping off the plunging area and creating a section for others to watch.

The Polar Plunge is an annual event set up to support the local Special Olympics branches. It raises money to not only send special needs athletes to the Special Olympics, but gives them opportunities that they may not normally get, both on and off the athletic field.

When 11 a.m. rolled around and it was time for the jumping to begin, the air was filled with many emotions.

“Going up there I was excited (and) really nervous,” said Haley Ferris, sophomore occupational therapy major. “I just didn’t know how it would feel afterwards but it went really well.”

Like a leap of faith, gathering oneself to jump into what is perceived to be freezing ice water is the first step. The second being to take the step off of the platform into the unknown temperatures of Mouse Lake’s waters.

“Me and Chloe (Cowan, sophomore elementary education major) held each other’s hands and we just jumped in on the count of three, and once we got in it was just like shock, it just shocked our body,” Ferris said.

Ferris and Cowan are both part of a new group on campus called SPECS – Special Education through Community Service. The group specifically works with the Special Olympics.

“I have help(ed) out with cause(s) like this,” Jenkins said. “In high school, I would volunteer to help out with Special Olympics in (my) hometown.”

Ferris and Cowan also had previous experiences in working with special needs people. Cowan, president of SPECS, created the group this semester after wanting an opportunity to work more with the Special Olympics.

“I just started this new group on campus called SPECS and we were kind of trying to get the name out for that, and also just to help out Special Olympics in the area so kind of kill two birds with one stone,” Cowan said. “I feel like the money goes straight toward people in need rather than toward buying something that people don’t benefit from.”

Another group that works very heavily with the Special Olympics is Alpha Sigma Alpha, a sorority who has the organization as their national philanthropy.

According to the Kansas Special Olympics website, at the time of the Plunge, the money collected had reached a total of $8,751.72 – well under their goal of $28,000 but still a significant amount.

“A lot of people with disabilities may not have enough money to participate in these sports” Ferris said. “I feel like it’s important for people with disabilities to get out in the community and get to experience the same activities that we get to experience.”

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