Jackson County Polar Plunge team tops $10,000


BORDEN — “Be bold. Get cold.”

Members of the 30 teams participating in the Special Olympics Indiana Borden Polar Plunge on Saturday at Deam Lake State Recreation Area in Borden definitely lived up to the tagline of the nonprofit organization’s signature fundraiser.

They were bold by easily exceeding the goal of $90,000 by raising more $136,000, plus another $17,000 from a new event, a high school plunge, on Friday.

They also were cold as they made their way through the 38-degree water of Deam Lake.

But it’s all for a good cause.

Special Olympics Indiana 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 18,000 athletes.

The 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.

This year, for the 25th anniversary, participants need to raise a minimum of $99 for the opportunity to plunge at one of 19 locations across the state between Feb. 2 and March 2.

By raising the “bear” minimum, they receive a Polar Plunge shirt and cup. If they hit $300, $500, $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000, they can earn other prizes, including a beach towel, a sling bag or a robe.

To become a Super Plunger, a person needs to raise a minimum of $4,000 and plunge at a minimum of two sites, including Indianapolis on March 2. Along with bragging rights, those people will enjoy VIP treatment and receive the top fundraising prize, a baseball-themed plunge jersey.

Special awards are given at each plunge for best costume, most money raised by an individual and most money raised by a team.

Special Olympics Indiana has set a goal of raising $1 million to mark the Polar Plunge milestone.

At the Borden Polar Plunge, the Jackson County program was represented by the Seymour Tsunamis for the sixth year.

After a record-setting 2023 with more than $10,500 raised, the team is expected to top it this year based on money raised online and turned in at the plunge.

Twenty of the 27 people on the team were able to plunge Saturday. They included Special Olympics athletes and volunteers, two police officers, the mayor of Seymour and family and friends.

This was Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson’s fifth year plunging, and for the third time, he was joined by his youngest daughter, Sallie Nicholson. For the second year in a row, he is a Super Plunger.

Seymour Police Department School Resource Officer Jason Wynn was back at the plunge this year, while Indiana State Police Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Versailles Post, was a newcomer.

During the plunge, Wheeles was on Facebook Live through his ISP page. Along the way, he high fived the divers who were stationed in the water for everyone’s safety.

As he wrapped up his trek through the cold water, he said, “All right, so I did it, first Polar Plunge for me. I don’t think it will be my last. Can’t imagine it much colder. It’s a good cause.”

He also encouraged people to donate to his online fundraising page, as money can still be brought in during the plunge season that ends March 2.

“We’d appreciate your donations to support Special Olympics Indiana,” Wheeles said. “It’s a really good cause, a lot of fun going on.”

Seven athletes from the Jackson County program took the plunge. That included first-year plunger Roger Dillman.

After he dried off, Dillman was asked what he thought about the experience.

“It wasn’t bad. My toes are saying something different,” he joked. “When they thaw out, ask me then.”

When asked if he would plunge again, Dillman said he will consider it.

“That’s an adventure that should be something everybody should do at least once. It’s a little invigorating,” he said.

The Seymour Tsunamis have come a long way in their Polar Plunge efforts. In the first year, 2019, 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 to 30 in 2023, and the amount raised went from $2,967 the first year to more than $10,000 this year and last.

To support the team’s fundraising efforts, visit secure.e2rm.com/p2p/fundraising/385634/team/1004931/en-CA.

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