Hundreds of people came together on Saturday for the annual Polar Plunge at Stephen's Lake in Columbia. Teams from across Mid-Missouri dressed up in costumes and took a dip in the frigid winter waters! More than $96,000 was raised in donations, exceeding the goal of $77,000.
The Polar Plunge has been a tradition in Missouri for 17 years now, raising over $4 million for the Special Olympics. More than 20,000 people have taken the plunge in seven different locations around the state. The Special Olympics is involved in 170 different countries, engaging more than 4 million intellectually disabled athletes in sports. Of these 4 million athletes, more than 15,000 are from Missouri.
Out of the more than 90 teams that participated in the plunge, three were local teams: The Pajammin' Plungers from Boonville Student Council, Saints Peter & Paul Juvies 4 Jesus and the Isle of Capri Casino Boonville Community Aces. The Isle of Capri team won first place raising the most money with a total over $6,000. The Juvies 4 Jesus raised over $1,800 and the Pajammin' Plungers raised $590.
"This was our first year participating in the Polar Plunge and it felt great to be the winning team raising the most money. We plan to plunge again next year," Heather Rapp of the Isle of Capri team said,
The Pajammin' Plungers sponsors Kacie Richter and Emily Allsop also were new to the plunging experience.
"This was the first year I have participated in the plunge and I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was completely worth it.This organization has always been close to my heart so it was great to see so many people come out and support it," Richter said.
Co-sponsor Emily Allsop went on to say that her two favorite things about the event was the National Anthem sung by Special Olympics athlete Shirlene Treadwell and the heating tents where they changed after the plunge.
Director of Field Services and sponsor of the Juvies 4 Jesus team, Trish Lutz, has been a staff member for the Special Olympics for 18 years.
"The athletes are my favorite thing about working with the Special Olympics. They inspire me everyday to do my best and just enjoy life," Lutz said.