Polar plunge slated for Feb. 16

PARKERSBURG – When it’s too cold for some, it’s just right for West Virginia Special Olympics.

The first Polar Plunge “Freezin’ for a Reason” in Parkersburg will be 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at the amphitheater in Point Park where warm-blooded participants will jump into a frigid pool of water.

It’s the first time the event will be held in Parkersburg, said Cheryl Baxter of Parkersburg, a volunteer organizer of the event that has been held in Charleston, Morgantown and Beckley. Her daughter-in-law, Angela Evans, is a co-chairman of the organizers.

The plunge has been held for eight and nine years in Charleston and Morgantown and the last three years in Beckley, Baxter said.

“Since Parkersburg is where West Virginia Special Olympics started, we thought it was appropriate for Parkersburg to have one,” Baxter said.

Participants, either individuals or teams of four representing themselves or organizations, will obtain pledges from contributors to take the plunge into the ice-cold pool, Baxter said.

All funds raised will go to Special Olympics.

Events in Morgantown, Charleston and Beckley have raised from $25,000 to $35,000, said John Corbett, executive director of West Virginia Special Olympics. Morgantown and Charleston are the largest events, more than likely because they are the oldest, he said.

“They have become very critical to our fundraising and planning,” Corbett said.

All participants will receive a T-shirt and invitation to the post-plunge party at the Blennerhassett Hotel on Market Street. The cost is $5 for non-plungers to attend the party.

The minimum pledge amount is $50. Participants with $200 in pledges also will receive a glass mug. Those with $350 in pledges will receive a fleece jacket, too.

Participants raising $500 in pledges will receive all of the above and a gift certificate for dinner, Baxter said.

A contest will be held for the most original costume, Baxter said.

“Costumes will be encouraged,” she said.

Prizes will be awarded to the costume contest winners, she said. Prizes also will be awarded to the team or individual who raises the most money, Baxter said.

Corporate sponsorships and donations are being solicited for prizes, Baxter said.

Entry forms are available at www.sowv.org or by calling Special Olympics at 1-800-926-1616, Baxter said. Participants under 18 must have a release signed by the parents or guardians.

Registration is from 1:30-2:45 p.m. Feb. 16, with the costume contest at 2:30 p.m. Registration forms can be mailed to Special Olympics WV, 1206 Virginia St. East, Suite 100, Charleston, WV 25301.

At 2:55 p.m., a presentation on how to survive the jump will be held prior to the 3 p.m. start of the Polar Plunge.

Swimsuits must be worn, T-shirts optional, and participants can jump in with their costumes, Baxter said. Tents and restrooms will be available to change immediately after taking the plunge, she said.

Participants are advised to bring extra clothing and towels, shoes or slippers and a jacket or robe. No diving will be permitted.

The typical plunger runs the spectrum of society, Corbett said. They are high school and college students to older businessmen, including lawyers and politicians, he said.

Many do it each year, Corbett said.

“The next thing you know they have a streak going,” Corbett said.

About 100 people participate in the plunges in Morgantown, Charleston and Beckley, Baxter said. Sometimes as many as 175 take part, she said.

The pool will be at the amphitheater at Point Park, Baxter said. It’s a perfect place to view the festivities, she said.

The event will take place regardless of the weather, rain or shine, hot or cold, Baxter said. There is no such thing as too cold for the Polar Plunge, according to Baxter.

“I have broken the ice on top of that pool,” she said.

Paramedics will be available at the event, Baxter added.