The Polar Plunge is exactly what it sounds like, an outdoor dip or dash into icy, cold water.
It might sound crazy to most people, participants said, but it’s also a fun way to raise money for Special Olympics.
That’s the main reason Hayden resident Joshua Lakins has taken part for the past six years.
On Feb. 28, Lakins will take part in his seventh Polar Plunge in Louisville, Kentucky.
Similar events are conducted across the country to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics, an organization that provides athletic training and competitions for children and adults with disabilities.
Lakins doesn’t have a personal connection to Special Olympics other than an uncle who served as a coach for a few years and continues to volunteer with the organization.
He heard of the Polar Plunge online and of other people doing it, so he searched for information and details about the event. Louisville was the first and biggest of the plunges that popped up, he said.
“I had always wanted to do it, so I found the one in Louisville and signed up,” he said.
“The first year I did it was 2009, and I have had a great time ever since.”
He said one of the best parts is seeing some of the same people at the event.
“It’s great to see some of the Special Olympics athletes and the fellow plungers year after year,” he said.
The Kentucky Polar Plunge is held at the Brown-Forman Amphitheater by the Big Four Bridge in Louisville.
Teams take turns jumping off docks into the Ohio River near sponsor Tumbleweed restaurant.
Last year’s plunge, the 16th in Louisville, raised more than $240,000 to support Special Olympics of Kentucky. Nearly 1,000 people took the plunge.
Those who know Lakins don’t find it surprising that the red-headed and bearded co-owner of Twisted Crew Brewery in Seymour has a good time diving into freezing cold water.
“When you jump in the river, the water temperature is about 36 degrees,” he said. “The first year was a big shock because I didn’t know what to expect.”
If the river level is too high, organizers set up pools for participants to jump into, and that water is usually even colder, Lakins said.
“There’s nothing to prepare you to jump into 36-degree water,” he said. “Although we usually have a few beers beforehand to warm us up.”
After the big plunge, many participants jump into hot tubs set up to help take the chill away.
Another tradition is for teams to dress alike or follow a goofy theme. There is a costume contest right before the plunge.
In the past, Lakins and his teammates have dressed in green, Irish kilts, coconut bikini tops and straw grass hula skirts, Hooters waitress outfits, cut-off shorts and flannel shirts, and “old man” suits they purchased from Goodwill.
This year, the team of four will wear Twisted Crew T-shirts and gear. Teammates are Brad Bott and Heather Hafner, both of Seymour, and Alex Murphy of Butlerville.
Their online goal is to raise $2,000 and hope to recruit six more people to take the plunge with them. With just three weeks before the big event, they have raised $500.
Lakins’ personal goal is to raise $300. So far, he’s brought in $75.
“Every year I raise around $200 to $300 and usually have about four to five other people that join my team,” he said. “They usually raise another $200 to $300 apiece.”
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To donate to Joshua Lakins’s Twisted Crew Brewery Polar Plunge Team, visit SOKY.org and click on special events and then Polar Plunges. Then choose the Louisville event.
Donors can then click on Find a Participant and type in Josh Lakins, which will bring up his personal donation page.
By clicking Give Now, donors can give $35, $60 or $120, or any amount they choose.
Or people can drop off donations in an envelope at Twisted Crew Brewery, 755 W. Second St., Seymour, IN 47274.