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Big splash!

Polar Plunge raises $33,000 for Special Olympics

March 05, 2008
Superheroes, two Santa Clauses, a ballerina and others plunged into the Buffalo Trace Park lake at Palmyra Saturday morning and came out with $33,000 for the Special Olympics.

The plungers — 124 in all, more than three times organizers were told to expect — came from all over Southern Indiana, and even Kentucky, to participate in the inaugural Southeastern Indiana Polar Plunge.

"We couldn't ask for a first-time event to have a better turnout than we did," said Evelyn McPherson, co-chair of the event that benefited the 13-county Special Olympics Area 2.

Some plungers dressed in whacky costumes, including superheroes from Humana, who included Super Sized Hero, Super Lucky and Catwoman, while others chose to wear T-shirts and shorts or traditional bathing suits.

Either way, they had two things in common: They got wet and they got cold. The temperature, despite being a picture-perfect day, was only in the 40s, while the lake was even cooler, at about 38 degrees.

After being announced by Louisville radio personalities Matt Ryan and Jill Farney, many confident plungers ran down the beach and went full-throttle into the lake, while others were a bit more timid and took their time, only to go waist deep into the water before turning around and coming out. Members of the Indiana State Police Dive Team were positioned in the lake to make sure everyone remained safe.

Dan Lowe, president/CEO of Blue River Services Inc., lived up to the BRS team's name — Blue River Shiver Rats — after coming out of the water.

"I don't even like getting in the pool in the summer," he joked.

However, Lowe, a first-time plunger, said he was extremely happy to dive head-first into the cold water to help raise much-needed funds for the Special Olympics.

Polar Plunges have been held in other parts of the state, including at Indianapolis, Evansville and Boonville, and in Louisville, but this was the first in the southeastern part of Indiana, McPherson said.

"I think we knocked their socks off," she said, noting state Special Olympics officials told planners to expect no more than 40 plungers for the first-time outing. "We just blew everything out of the water."

Among the first-time plungers was Mike Furnisch, president/CEO of Special Olympics Indiana.

"We were excited his first-time plunge was with us," McPherson said.

Following the event, most of the 300 people who attended went to an After Splash Bash at Palmyra United Methodist Church, where they enjoyed lunch.

Several awards were presented, including:

•Most Money Raised By An Individual — Peggy Conaway of Madison, $1,600.

•Most Money Raised By A Team — Blue River Services Inc., $1,866.

•Most Money Raised By A Company — Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital, $2,300.

•Largest Team — Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital, 13 people.

•Best Costume — Humana, Superheroes.

McPherson said organizers plan on making the Polar Plunge an annual event.

"It's just going to get bigger and better," she said.

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