Saturday's Polar Plunge expected to raise $40,000 for Special Olympics Michigan

Supporters of Special Olympics Michigan have no hesitation to show their enthusiasm for the cause — even if it means jumping into an icy pond.

SOMI's fifth annual Polar Plunge is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Registration for plungers will begin at 10:30.

Joel Warner, Polar Plunge coordinator and Information Systems Manager for SOMI, said 167 plungers have already registered online, and between 250 and 300 participants are expected to plunge into the Rose Ponds this year.

"It's huge," he said. "Every year has been growing a good 75 percent."

Warner said last year's Polar Plunge brought out 216 participants to raise about $30,000.

This year's goal is set at $40,000 — an amount Warner said is completely obtainable. The registration cost per plunger is $50, but last year's participants averaged a donation of $230 each.

Warner said the two registered student organizations in the lead for highest donations are Phi Sigma Pi fraternity and Therapeutic Recreation.

Phi Sigma Pi member Maria Schmieder, an Ada senior, is planning to make her first jump on Saturday after helping coordinate the group's participation.

"I didn't jump last year, so I'm nervous about the cold," Schmieder said.

Schmieder said the Polar Plunge is Phi Sigma Pi's second biggest fundraising cause.

"It's our biggest fundraising thing outside of our philanthropy," she said. "Mount Pleasant is the headquarters for (SOMI), and I feel it's really important that CMU and the community as a whole raise a lot of money for it."

Plungers are encouraged to wear costumes, though it is not required to participate. Costumes must be appropriate and include shoes, Warner said.

"It's whatever your imagination comes up with," Warner said. "Wetsuits are not allowed. Quite a few are in bathing suits, but there are some pretty wild costumes."

He said there is no age limit to participate and this year's youngest registered plunger is 8 years old.

Kim Purdy, public relations director for SOMI, said the event is an integral part of funding the Special Olympics.

"We get no state funding," she said. "We are funded by the generosity of donors and sponsors. Every dollar counts."

Purdy said even though SOMI provides year-round athletic training and competition, the organization is about more than athletics.

SOMI presents opportunities for Special Olympic athletes to experience joy, form friendships and gain self-esteem, among other things, she said.

Purdy estimates out of the 24 locations hosting Polar Plunge events across Michigan this winter, CMU will place second or third in terms of largest dollar amount raised.

An after-plunge party will be hosted at Wayside Central, 2000 S. Mission St. Food from O'Kelly's Bar and Grille, also at 2000 S. Mission St., and The Cabin, 930 W. Broomfield St. will be provided. Participants can eat for free, but a $5 donation for non-plungers will be taken at the door.

Post-plunge awards will be given at the after-plunge party.


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