polar plunge

CHILLY: Kory Erby runs out of the 36-degree water after participating in the annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge Saturday at Crossroads Community Church.

With temperatures hovering in the teens, hundreds of brave men, women and children took a dip into 36-degree waters for one main goal — to raise money for Special Olympics.

Ten teams of more than 100 plungers, both young and old, braved the chilly waters Saturday in what one organizer called the largest turnout ever for Kokomo’s annual Polar Plunge.

“This is the largest group that I’ve ever seen for the plunge,” Cinda Milan, a board member for Area 5 Special Olympics, told plungers and spectators during opening ceremonies at Crossroads Community Church near Ind. 26 and U.S. 31.

Last year, the plunge raised more than $17,000 for Special Olympics Area 5, which covers Cass, Fulton, Howard, Kosciusko, Miami, Pulaski, Tipton and Wabash counties.

Milan said they surpassed last year’s total by raising more than $20,000 Saturday for the charity.

“I’m real excited about that.”

“We set a goal of 100 plungers and more than $20,000 and surpassed both,” she said. “So we’re excited about that. We’re also really excited with having a lot of different community members and groups involved this year. Rock 98.5 brought in more than $1,000, the Ivy Tech School of Nursing came out as plungers and brought in $552 and had 22 volunteers to help us, and the Eastern High School Key Club raised $996.”

Plunge coordinator Tom Adams, also an Area 5 board member, said the group could not be more pleased with the number of plungers.

“It’s just a phenomenal turnout,” Adams said. “When I started several years ago we had maybe 50 plungers. We’re thrilled to see all these people. We got a lot of support from the schools, organizations, a big group from Chrysler, the Howard County Sheriff Department Dive Team — it’s just phenomenal.

“This is the largest fundraiser in the area for Special Olympics,” Adams continued. “Money raised helps state programs and helped us in the local area. It’s very multi-benefical.”

After breakfast and opening ceremonies, groups of plungers — some in bathing suits, some dressed in costumes — walked out into the snow, and group after group waded into the partially ice-covered pond outside the church.

“Oh my gosh,” screamed 12-year-old Katie Titler as she waded waist-deep into the chilly pond.

Titler, accompanied by Diane Watson, 60, India Piel, 12, and Griffin Piel, 4, were the first group to take the plunge representing team Polar Plungers, which won the best costume award.

“It was cold,” Titler said after running from the chilly waters waiving a toilet plunger in the air.

Members of the Howard County Sheriff Department dive team surrounded a small, roped-off section of the pond to provide safety and support for plungers.

Watson, who dressed as a witch, said they took the plunge out of support for her two grandsons, Jori and Howard, who are autistic.

“This our fourth or fifth year; we did it for them.”

Adorned in a bathing suit, robe and towel, Doug Adams, 67, looked more like a beach goer than a man getting ready to jump into a freezing pond.

Adams, who serves as coordinator for Wabash County and the chairman of the Special Olympics fundraiser at the Knights of Columbus, decided to take the plunge to motivate others to get involved in the fundraiser.

“It’s hard to encourage others unless you do it yourself,” he said inside the church prior to the plunge.

“I brought five with us this year.”

Kokomo was one of seven host sites statewide for plunges held Saturday. Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge season will continue this week with three more events before the finale Feb. 25 in Indianapolis.

• Mike Fletcher may be reached at 765-454-8565 or via e-mail at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com

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