At first the notion of jumping into a freezing cold lake dressed in a silly costume in the middle of February seems outrageous, especially if you signed up to do it. But for Karrie Mitchell and the rest of the Boone County Family Resources team that participated in Polar Plunge 2012, the zaniness was worth it.
In fact, the annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Missouri was downright fun.
“Each year I say to myself, ‘I must be crazy signing up to jump into the freezing cold water.’ But each year, once I am at the plunge, I am instantly reminded of why it is so important,” said Mitchell, a Supervisor and Client Services Coordinator at one of BCFR’s supported living sites. “The energy coming out of the event is electrifying.”
According to the Special Olympics Missouri website, a record 430 plungers raised $72,063 for Special Olympic athletes during the local event on February 18 at Stephens Lake Park. While the plungers were getting wet, dozens of supporters crowded a hillside near the lake to snap pictures and cheer on their favorite team. Columbia was among 13 locations across the state where participants jumped for the cause. The Polar Plunge is an annual winter event in which teams about 10 people raise money for Special Olympics by dressing up in costumes and plunging into a body of water. Teams generally have a theme that dictates their costumes. This year, BCFR plungers dressed like characters from the computer game Angry Birds. Other teams were dressed like super heroes and Smurfs, to name a few.
“My personal opinion is that our agency’s families and clients should see us supporting this cause,” said Melissa McBroom, a Supervisor and Client Services Coordinator at one of BCFR’s supported living sites.
McBroom and BCFR’s Associate Director Robyn Kaufman have been participating in the event since the first plunge in 2008. They were joined this year by Mitchell and BCFR staff members Adrian Cummings, Justine Hohmann and Krystal Smith. Staff members Kim Cearlock and Amanda Swindell raised money but didn’t participate in the plunge. New to the BCFR team were three residents of some of the agency’s supported living sites which included Daniel and roommates Shaina and Barb. They weren’t afraid of the cold water.
“I’ve been out in the cold before,” Shaina said boldly before the plunge. “It doesn’t bother me.”
Barb planned to have plenty of warm clothes on hand. “I don’t care too much about the cold because all the proceeds go to Special Olympics,” she said.
Last year was the first time Cearlock, a BCFR Client Services Coordinator, participated in the plunge. “It’s wonderful to see all the people there supporting this organization,” she said.
Like other diehard participants, McBroom wonders each year what she’s gotten herself into as she prepares to make the plunge. But doubt never lasts.
“Each year the temperature is different, but what is never different is standing in line freezing, waiting for the parade to start, looking at each other and saying, ‘What were we thinking?’ declaring we are never doing this again,” she said. “Then when we finally plunge, everyone runs out saying, ‘It wasn’t that bad. I’d do it again.’”
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