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Local residents benefit Special Olympics by jumping into freezing waters

Bill Conn stood at the edge of a hole in the ice on Rose Pond in his purple Teletubby costume, awaiting the countdown to jump into the frigid waters below.

After his plunge, the purple costume sagged and began to freeze. Conn quickly made his way to the Rose locker rooms to shower and change into warm clothes.

“This is my first actual plunge,” Conn said. “I have been in the water, but I was in a rubber wetsuit then, so it didn’t count.”

The eighth annual Mount Pleasant Polar Plunge attracted 225 participants Saturday, while collecting $35,284 in donations for Michigan Special Olympics.

The plunge was free of charge to participate in, though donations were accepted and oftentimes expected from plungers out of common courtesy. Volunteers were selling shirts and other accessories at the event as well.

Several registered student organizations, fraternities, sororities, businesses and organizations on campus made appearances at the plunge.

Before the jump, plungers could choose to go by themselves or with a friend. The announcer at the event called the names of participants as well as what they were representing before they jumped into the icy waters. Many jumpers dressed up to draw attention.

The plunge started with registration from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., ending around 12:30 p.m. After the event, Wayside Central hosted an afterparty for plungers and others to mingle and share their experiences from the event.

Keith Stack was one of the participants in the Polar Plunge who decided to jump into the water below a 16-inch layer of ice. He said he never plunged before and wanted to do it at least one time.

Stack had trouble breathing in the water, but quickly recovered once he got out and warmed up. Stack said he regretted nothing and would recommend it to others.

“I knew it was going to be cold, but I did not think I wouldn’t be able to breathe,” Stack said. “It’s an experience you have got to try at least once.”

According to the Aquatic Exercise Association’s standards and guidelines, most swimming pools range from temperatures of 78 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezing 32-degree water at the plunge was far different from normal swimming waters.

The goal for the event this year was $40,000, leaving the event just shy. However, the number continues to grow as people are still able to donate to participants. The proceeds have already surpassed last year’s goal of $30,000.

Nate Jonaitis, the lead preschool teacher at the lab school in the Education and Human Services building on campus, contributed to the amount raised Saturday. He is also on the Special Olympics of Michigan Planning Committee, which helps coordinate the event.

“This will be my eighth plunge,” Jonaitis said. “I’ve done it every year that it has been here.”

Jonaitis said every year since the plunge began, he has been a top donor. This year, Jonaitis raised $4,097 with 68 supporters. Because he has worked hard to raise the money for the event in past, he plans on continuing to contribute in the future.

“It’s nice to see everyone come out to support a great cause,” said Nicole Baer, a volunteer coordinator. “I think that bringing awareness to such issues is the best way to get attention to it and improve any type of services or organizations that help it out.”

Many groups and organizations showed up to plunge and support the SOMI. The largest group that participated as a whole at the event was the Mount Pleasant CrossFit Worthy organization with 15 divers, donating to SOMI collectively.


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