If you live in an apartment in Mooresville, NC then you know it is that time of year again. The Race City Civitan Club will host their sixth “Freezin’ for a Reason” polar plunge 9 a.m. Feb. 8.
Participants gather donor pledges to benefit Special Olympics of Lake Norman, and then will take a chilly dip into Lake Norman. Funds raised will help the athletes in the Special Olympics with opportunities to participate in life-enriching training programs. There are about 140 participating athletes in the Special Olympics of Lake Norman’s region.
The idea for the polar plunge came from Special Olympics organizations around the country. Organizers said some northern U.S. organizations that host similar events have to cut holes in the ice for people to plunge.
It may be unseasonably cold here right now, but the harshest weather the Lake Norman event has encountered was the year it snowed during the plunge. The water is typically 40 degrees to 50 degrees, and medical professionals are there for safety. Despite frigid temperatures, participant clothing choices range from bikinis to wet suits, and have included ROTC uniforms and costumes.
The event is fun-spirited: Tom Nixon, local coordinator of Special Olympics of Lake Norman, said they encourage individuals and organizations to challenge each other to take the plunge.
Last year, 75 fundraisers took the plunge. Race City Civitans President Beth McCarthy said that though teenagers “are the most willing” participants, many adults plunge too.
Plungers run into the water as far as they dare, stay in for as long as they want or until a lifeguard orders them to shore, then emerge to warm themselves by a fire and with warm beverages and snacks. For those who are “too chicken to plunge” but wish to participate and raise funds, there is a “Chicken Coop” section on the shore.
“The smiles and the joy of the (Special Olympics) athletes are priceless,” said Nixon, “and without the Race City Civitans we would be hard-pressed to do them.”
The Special Olympics consist of 22 sports. Special Olympics of Lake Norman offers the sports that they have volunteer coaches for. Programs are offered at no cost to the athletes and their families. Equipment, uniforms and travel are provided.
Athletes compete locally and regionally, and can qualify for higher levels of competition. The next national Special Olympics will be this June in Princeton, N.J. In 2015, the next international summer Special Olympics will be in Los Angeles.
The Civitan Club’s goal is to raise $5,000 with this year’s polar plunge, which is the record high raised by any previous plunge. Special Olympics of Lake Norman operates on a $25,000 annual budget; organizations are hoping the plunge will account for 20% of the year’s budget. Special Olympics of Lake Norman receives no government funding, so community support and sponsors are essential to the organization.
Upcoming Special Olympics of Lake Norman events are basketball skills Feb. 21 at the War Memorial in Mooresville, bowling March 21 at Victory Lanes, spring games May 2 at the Mooresville Graded School District football stadium, and the second Special Olympics North Carolina Sailing Regatta in September with the Lake Norman Yacht Club’s help hosting.