About 300 people expected to take the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Polar Plunge participants jump into 5-degree waters for Special Olympics on Feb. 17 at O'Kellys and Wayside.

Hundreds of Mount Pleasant residents will gather Saturday in front of the O’Kelly’s and Wayside bar parking lot to take the plunge into freezing water to raise money for Special Olympics. 

“There are 30 Polar Plunges around Michigan that are meant to bring awareness and show support to our athletes that compete year-round for Special Olympics,” said Mount Pleasant Polar Plunge Organizer Andrea Rachko. “In Mount Pleasant we have a team revolved around one of our younger athletes, who is entering our bigger program, and it's great to see the support from the students and community members during this event.”

Polar Plunge registration begins at 10 a.m. Feb. 16. The plunge begins at 11:30 a.m. Spectators can watch people take the plunge for free, but organizers of the event hope to see a donation of at least $10 from plungers to help with the fundraising. There is also a $75 donation amount to register that could earn the participant a prize. Those interested can find more information on the Polar Plunge Facebook page. 

The Special Olympics Michigan Polar Plunge made its debut in 2000 in Saginaw and has been a popular fundraising event since. The event was brought to Mount Pleasant seven years later. Mount Pleasant is home to around 230 Special Olympic athletes. 

“We have around 300 plungers, so we’re saying about 900 people are going to be at O’Kelly’s and Wayside,” Rachko said. “At one plunge, we broke 500 plungers, which we would love to do again.”

Rachko said that university students have been a big contributor to the fundraising event.

“Since it began in 2007, students in Mount Pleasant have raised over $150,000,” she said. “Students are our biggest drive, I would say we have around 100-150 community members taking the plunge, and then students will take up the rest of those numbers.”

The money raised will go to helping fund Special Olympic events. Athletes don’t have to pay any fees to attend local or state-wide tournaments, so fundraisers are needed.