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Mount Pleasant hosts 9 years of Polar Plunge

Serving more than 20,000 Special Olympians statewide and raising $330,673 for Special Olympics Michigan since 2007, Mount Pleasant's annual Polar Plunge is one of the largest Special Olympics fundraisers in the state. 

The tradition of Michigan's Polar Plunges started in Saginaw in 2000. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a program that raises awareness and funds for the Special Olympics. The group selected Saginaw as the site for the first Polar Plunge because many of the LETR volunteers worked there.

Andrea Rachko, senior development director of Special Olympics Michigan, said the amount of money raised from Polar Plunge nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015, from $46,000 to $79,000.

“We have the Special Olympic headquarters here and the (Central Michigan University) student body is a big part of the volunteer effort,” Rachko said.

The plunge used to be hosted at the Rose Pond outside of the Student Activity Center. Last year, it was moved off campus to Wayside Central/O’Kelley’s Sports Bar and Grille.

“We wanted a new atmosphere and change of venue,” Rachko said.

This year, students and residents raised $72,076 for Special Olympics Michigan.

There are 28 sites in Michigan who host their own polar plunge, including Ann Arbor and Detroit. Polar Plunges are not just Michigan specific however, with plunges happening around the world. For the past three years, Mount Pleasant Polar Plunge has raised the third largest amount of money in the state.

Since 2009, 1,227 people have volunteered to take the plunge. In 2014 it was 180 people and last year it was 360.

President of Special Olympics College Alyssa Bellamy took her first plunge this year. Special Olympics College is a student volunteer group that helps CMU students have opportunities to volunteer with the Special Olympics. Bellamy set a personal goal of raising $150 before the plunge took place, and surpassed her goal.

Bellamy volunteered at the summer Special Olympics games before her freshman year of college.

“It was such a good atmosphere; it’s impossible to have a bad day,” Bellamy said.

She coaches five sports for Special Olympics Area 7; softball, soccer, cross country skiing, bowling and track and field.

“Coaching is a great opportunity to get to know athletes more personally and have a real connection with them,” Bellamy said. “So many of my athletes do amazing things for their community and impact peoples' lives. It’s made me realize that nothing can hold me back.”