Holding her cellphone in her right hand, Mary Carlson was live on Facebook starting with the walk from the beach house, then through the snow and into the 14-degree water.
After she made her way through an area of ice carved out of Deam Lake, Carlson kept recording as 11 Seymour Tsunamis teammates participated in the Special Olympics Indiana Polar Plunge.
Most followed Carlson’s lead in walking through the water until they were waist-deep, but a couple chose to dip their whole body into the frigid water.
Either way, they were all “Freezin’ for a Reason” and felt warm inside for helping a cause close to their hearts.
The Polar Plunge is the signature fundraiser for Special Olympics Indiana, a nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities ages 8 and up. Fundraisers such as the Polar Plunge allow athletes to participate at no cost.
The Seymour Tsunamis, representing Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County, turned in $7,430.20 on Saturday. That’s the most collected in the three years of participating in the Borden Polar Plunge.
Overall, the Borden Polar Plunge had 195 plungers and raised $72,390.59.
This was Carlson’s first time doing the plunge. She’s the assistant county coordinator and secretary.
“The last two years didn’t work out, so I wanted to make sure I did it this year,” she said. “I’m going to sound crazy, but it was a ball. So much fun. I may have to go under next year.”
She did the plunge for her daughter, Claire Carlson, and her fellow athletes.
“I’m so proud of the community and how they’ve rallied and supported our athletes,” Mary said.
The second person to plunge for the Seymour Tsunamis was athlete Alysha Sandlin. It was her second year in a row plunging.
“I had fun last time and to see my friends and to keep helping support Special Olympics,” she said of why she wanted to plunge again this year.
She enjoyed “being with friends and all of us being brave.”
“I like my team and haven’t gotten to do much with them since COVID started,” Sandlin said. “We got to do something fun together.”
She was followed by Polar Plunge newcomer Charlie Smith, a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School.
“I was nervous with butterflies in my stomach the morning of the plunge. I had no idea what to expect or how it would feel,” he said. “Once I arrived at Deam Lake, that nervousness turned to excitement. Honestly, the brisk 14-degree water was not as bad as I thought.”
He was impressed by the number of plungers that day.
“I know things were different this year due to COVID, but in the time I was at the lake, it was well organized and a lot of people helping out and plunging,” Smith said. “I love that everyone will come together for such a great cause.”
He was one of three team members who raised more than $1,000. The others were virtual plungers, meaning they only raised money online and either weren’t able or chose not to plunge.
“When I wasn’t sure if I was going to make my goal, I took advantage of the snow and made a snow angel on video in my swimming suit to help advertise,” Smith said. “I was called crazy a few times, but it did help raise money. I put it out there that I would do the plunge if I received enough donations, so I guess my supporters wanted to see me get cold.”
He was happy to reach his goal of $1,000.
“I picked a fundraising goal that I thought would challenge me but would be achievable,” he said. “Thankfully, I had a lot of support and was able to go over my goal. I think raising over $7,400 as a team is amazing, and I am glad to be able to be a part of that.”
Next to plunge was Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson, who did so for the second straight year.
“The cold water didn’t hit me until my head went underwater,” he said. “Then it took my breath away.”
He didn’t mind the cold water because he knew he was helping a good cause.
“Short answer is the smiles on the athletes’ faces,” he said of why he chose to do the Polar Plunge. “Seeing others getting involved is great. Every little bit helps and adds up to a lot.”
He was impressed by the team’s fundraising total, which easily surpassed last year’s nearly $2,900.
“The team total was amazing,” he said. “I know we can’t measure it in smiles, but if we could, it would be in the millions.”
The last group to plunge consisted of athletes Becky Klosterman and Nevaeh Ackeret and volunteers Crystal Ackeret, Hannah Ackeret, Camryn Hudson and Jenny Ray.
This was Klosterman’s first time plunging and Nevaeh’s second.
“I really like it and doing it for Special Olympics,” Klosterman said. “I am doing the Polar Plunge next year for Jackson County.”
Nevaeh said she had fun plunging last year and wanted to do it again, even though the water was about 20 degrees colder this time.
“It makes me feel good to see others do the plunge because I know they are helping our program,” she said.
This was her sister Hannah’s third straight year taking the plunge.
“I wanted to do the plunge again this year because it was a fun experience in the past,” Hannah said. “This year, it seemed to be more fun than in the past. To see other people taking the plunge shows that people care and want to help out.”
Ray was invited to participate by her friend, Crystal Ackeret, who is the coordinator for the Jackson County program.
“I appreciate opportunities to get involved more after spending the past year living in a pandemic,” Ray said.
Since the water was 14 degrees, she said she got in and out as quick as she could.
“I didn’t know it was such a big event. I look forward to being more involved next year,” she said. “The Polar Plunge is an exciting way to spend your Saturday and benefits a great cause.”
As the leader of the county program, Crystal said she has committed herself to do the Polar Plunge every year.
“As a county coordinator, I can’t ask others to do it and not do it myself,” she said. “Besides that, I have a blast.”
She said seeing others join the plunge makes her proud.
“As a mom, I am proud of my two daughters who plunged. As a county coordinator, I am proud that we had members of our management team and members of our community step up and help raise a lot of money for our athletes this year,” she said. “I am proud of our friends that decided that they would plunge with us. I am so proud of our three athletes who plunged.”
Raising nearly $7,500 ensures the program can continue in Jackson County, she said. Online donations will still be accepted through the plunge season, which ends April 10.
“I would encourage anyone and everyone to join us next year and every year,” Crystal said. “We always have a great group, and we have a lot of fun. It’s great to be able to see how excited our athletes get about it. It also helps our athletes be able to continue to play sports at no cost to them.”
Nicholson also encourages more participation.
“For anyone who thinks they want to jump into cold water during winter, I would say this is the reason,” he said. “For those not sure about the cold water part, there are many other ways to get involved, but be careful because the athletes’ smiles will lead you to the beach on a cold February day.”
On the Web
Donations to the Seymour Tsunamis can be made online at secure.e2rm.com/p2p/fundraising/348724/team/932185.
For information about Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County, visit facebook.com/jacksoncountyspecialolympics.