Indiana State University students and faculty are preparing for the annual Polar Plunge event. It will take place on Feb. 22 at the rec center on campus. The ISU community has teams comprised of students, staff and faculty to partake in this event.
The only requirements are for participants to be over the age of 12 and they must raise a minimum of $75. The tradition has continued for twenty-one years and continues to grow. Thousands have benefited from this event, and in 2019 alone almost $900,000 was raised and 3,000 people took part in the fundraiser.
The Polar Plunge was created by the Indiana Special Olympics to raise money for Special Olympics athletes. The funds help support the athletes to train at nearby facilities and participate at the state level for their sports.
The event is held every year with various locations and multiple participants throughout the state. Competitors can participate individually or form teams. The event consists of plunging into icy water to display their dedication to the cause.
ISU student Jenna Ford, an English teaching major, became involved with Polar Plunge through Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC). This is her second year plunging and her first year serving as captain for the ISU SCEC team.
“I choose to take part in the Polar Plunge because I absolutely love the cause that it stands for! Not only do I get the adventure of jumping into a pool in the freezing cold, but I also get to support Special Olympics Indiana and my friends with exceptionalities,” said Ford.
Robin Thoma, who is a part of the Blumberg Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in the Special Education Department here at ISU, has been involved with the program for several years.
“I got involved because as a special education teacher, supporting people with disabilities is something I feel very strongly about,” Thoma said. “I also have a very close friend who has a son with William’s syndrome and he is a Special Olympian. Once I attended the Summer Games and witnessed the passion, drive and true happiness of the athletes I knew I wanted to continue help support their efforts.”
Thoma comments that her favorite aspect of being involved is that the money raised stays local and supports the athletes in the community. A large portion of the money helps pay for the fees for the people who participate in the games from Happiness Bag. If it were not for the funds raised through Polar Plunge, many of the athletes would have to pay the expenses out-of-pocket, which could prevent them from being able to participate. To date, Thoma’s team has raised close to $50,000.
“I also love that teachers from across the corporation support this cause. We have teachers plunging from all disciplines. Having teachers, administrators and counselors support the cause helps build a community of inclusivity,” said Thoma.
First Giving is coordinating the fundraising efforts for the Polar Plunge. Plungers make a webpage that allows participants a place to direct people to for donations. Thoma’s team has also partnered with local restaurants Buffalo Wild Wings and IHOP.
There is some preparation to take into consideration prior to the event though.
“I don’t think you can ever truly prepare. I was terrified. The people on my team who have plunged in the past offered suggestions such as 1) don’t plunge in heavy clothes or shoes as it makes it difficult to get out of the pool, 2) bring a towel to have beside the pool and one for the locker room after you shower, 3) bring a full set of clothes to change into, and 4) bring a trash bag to put your wet clothes in after the plunge,” said Thoma.
Thoma strongly encourages everyone to become involved with the Polar Plunge event, no matter his or her level of commitment.
“I think it is so important to support your local community. Because the Indiana Summer Games are held on campus, faculty members and students have an opportunity to see the impact of their fundraising efforts first-hand," Thoma said. “Special Olympics is truly one of my favorite events of the year. If people have not volunteered or watched the Games, I would highly recommend it. It will make your heart happy and knowing that you had a hand in supporting the athletes is an added bonus”
If someone wants to get involved but does not want to plunge, there is an option to be a virtual plunger. This allows people to still support the cause and raise money without actually jumping in the pool. There is also an option to volunteer to help register participants on the day of the plunge.
Thoma also provided her personal page for further reference and donations. https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/robin-thoma-1/Polar-Plunge-Terre-Haute