TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Over 100 people braved chilly Saturday temperatures to help raise thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Indiana.
The Polar Plunge, the Special Olympics’ largest fundraiser, made its return outside the Indiana State Recreation Center. 110 Participants jumped into an outdoor pool– but chairman for the event John Lentz said there is a method to the madness.
“The money goes towards supporting the Special Olympic athletes, it helps them be able to come to the summer games, because it pays for their expenses and so on,” he said.
The event– a Hoosier staple– takes place all across Indiana throughout February. Scott Furnish, the Vice President and Chief Operation Officer for Special Olympics Indiana, said it benefits over 2,000 athletes who participate in the Special Olympics each year. This year, they raised over $20,000 in Terre Haute alone.
The festivities on Saturday, which included WTWO’s Nicole Krasean as the emcee, featured dozens of eager participants, some dressed up to also take part in a costume contest.
Lentz said his favorite part is watching jump after jump into the frigid waters.
“It’s once they start plunging, because you’ll see a lot of crazy things going on out there,” he said. “A lot of crazy costumes as we do have a costume contest. People have a lot of fun jumping in and supporting the cause.”
Furnish– who was participating in his 20th Polar Plunge– said he enjoys the passion people have for the event.
“My favorite part of it is how much people love our athletes, and want them to compete,” Furnish said. “Jumping in cold water is not everybody’s favorite thing, but I will tell you it’s much like running a 5k. Your adrenaline gets going when you jump in the water and you’re glad you did it when you’re done.”
Lentz, who was participating in his final Polar Plunge as he gets ready to retire, said that passion is what’s made him be a part of the Special Olympics for decades.
“It’s the one thing that really means a lot to me, it really tugs at the heart strings,” Lentz said. “You really see what they are all capable of doing, and it is a remarkable achievement that we have groups like this that are able to pull together and raise money.”
Indiana State will host the state’s Special Olympic Summer Games this year, June 9th through the 11th.