Local Special Olympics Polar Plunge team sets records


BORDEN — The Seymour Tsunamis experienced a heat wave at this year’s Polar Plunge.

The temperature was in the 40s, which is an increase from being in the 30s in three of the past four years and 13 degrees in 2021.

The team representing Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County also made waves this year in the number of plungers and amount of money raised.

The 30 people taking the plunge into Deam Lake in Borden and combining to raise more than $10,500 were both records in the five years of the team’s existence.

In the first year, 2019, the Tsunamis’ six plungers raised $900, while a team of four teachers raised $1,610 and did the Versailles Polar Plunge.

Since then, the number of plungers at Borden has gone from eight in 2020 to 12 in 2021 to 15 in 2022 and then doubling this year, and the amount raised went from $2,967 to $7,400 and then down to $6,800.

Overall, the 27 teams at the Borden Plunge raised $97,000. It’s one of 15 sites for this year’s Polar Plunge season in Indiana, which ends March 4.

Crystal Ackeret, county coordinator for the Jackson County program, has plunged all five years, so she has seen what work has been put in to hit the records.

“We had 30 people this year, and I couldn’t help to look at everyone with this sense of pride — 30 people who took time to work together and raise money for our county program to continue to provide free-to-play sports to our athletes,” she said.

“To raise over 10,000 as a team is amazing,” she said. “While I no longer live in Seymour, I still consider it my community, and I can’t thank the community enough for their continued support of our Special Olympics program.”

Special Olympics Indiana’s signature fundraiser consists of a series of events held each winter where individuals and teams brave the elements by taking an icy dip to demonstrate their commitment to the cause.

Special Olympics Indiana is 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. Indiana has more than 16,000 athletes.

Along with “Freezin’ for a reason,” this year’s plungers are encouraged to “Be bold. Get cold.” Participants need to raise a minimum of $85 for the opportunity to plunge. By raising the “bear” minimum, they receive a long-sleeve Polar Plunge shirt. If they hit $300, $500 or $1,000 or more, they will have a chance to earn other prizes, including a tumbler, a beach towel or a duffel bag.

At each plunge site, special awards are given for best costume, most money raised by an individual and most money raised by a team.

At Borden, Hannah’s Frozen Friends going with a flamingo theme won the costume contest, team member Doug Melton was the top individual fundraiser bringing in more than $10,000 and the SO Clark-Floyd County Polar Bears was the top team with more than $25,000 raised.

Ackeret said she enjoyed plunging once again.

“After the first year, it was never a thought of if I was going to do it again. I am always thinking, ‘Who else can I get to join me?’” she said. “So far, I have convinced two of my daughters, one of their friends, my best friend and her daughter. Next year, my husband will be joining us.”

She encourages others to consider joining the Tsunamis and volunteering for Special Olympics.

“You don’t have to wait until next year. We are busy all year long,” Ackeret said. “People come in looking to just be a volunteer and very quickly become like family.”

Becky Klosterman was among five Jackson County athletes plunging. It was her third year.

“I really like doing the plunge, and I really like the people that plunged with us on the team,” she said. “I really appreciate the guys for helping me out of the lake.”

Klosterman said she appreciates everyone who supported the Tsunamis.

“I want to thank everyone for supporting me to make my goal,” she said. “I really do enjoy the Polar Plunge and being with everyone on the team. I really like that we had more this year plunging with our team. I am glad that we had raised a lot. I cannot wait to do the plunge again next year.”

This was the fourth year for Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson to plunge. For the second time, he was joined by his youngest daughter, Sallie Nicholson.

For Matt, one plunge just wasn’t enough this year. He is working to reach $4,000 so he can do the March 4 plunge in Indianapolis and be deemed a Super Plunger.

“I joked with someone ‘Don’t ask me to plunge again at least until the next day,’ but staying in the water encouraging Alysha (Sandlin, one of the Jackson County athletes) wasn’t too bad and made the decision to raise another $1,312 and plunge again in three weeks easier,” he said.

He encourages people to visit his fundraising page so he can hit the Super Plunger level.

“I can’t thank all the donors enough. Without them, I would have not reached my original goal of $2,500,” Matt said. “Some of the next wave of donors have already started, and I am excited to see if we can raise the remaining $1,168 in time. I can’t reach my goal without everyone’s help. I believe it was Mother Teresa who said, ‘Together, we can do so much,’ and on this, we can do so much for our Special Olympics athletes for the upcoming year.”

To support the mayor’s fundraising efforts, visit secure.e2rm.com/p2p/fundraising/380477/participant/5140944/en-CA.

“It is amazing to me to think of where we were just four years ago when I first plunged,” Matt said. “Now, we have almost four times the team members helping support our athletes and keeping the programming free of charge.”

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