Polar Plunge makes a splash
The Terre Haute community made a huge splash at the 8th annual Polar Plunge at Indiana State University sponsored by Alpha Sigma Alpha and the Special Olympics.
Near 233 participants were “Freezin’ for a Reason” and made the icy plunge in support of Special Olympics at 10 a.m. on Feb 27, 2015, raising a record shattering $45,525.60.
For the past eight years Alpha Sigma Alpha has sponsored the Polar Plunge at ISU to raise funds for more than 11,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities both local and across the state.
“One of Alpha Sigma Alpha’s big philanthropies is Special Olympics and supporting the athletes,” Kayla Lindsay, Alpha Sigma Alpha’s president, said. “We do it year around, and we really like to work hands on with our philanthropies, so this gives us an opportunity to work hands on.”
The Special Olympics is the largest public health organization globally that is dedicated to helping those with disabilities. The Polar Plunge not only raises awareness about intellectual disabilities but also raises money. It has raised more than $3.4 million alone, making it the state’s largest fundraiser for Special Olympics.
Accompanying the plunge were various contests, which included a costume contest, largest group, most money raised by a group, and most money raised individually. Costumes ranged from Breaking Ice (Breaking Bad) to Shark Week, but the thrilling costumes of the Plunging Dead, a group of zombies, took home the prize.
The largest group prize was taken home by the event sponsors Alpha Sigma Alpha. 65 women from Alpha Sigma Alpha plunged into the freezing water and brought in the proceeds of approximately $8,000.
“I’m really proud of our members for raising so much money this year,” Lindsay said. “It just goes to show that we are passionate about helping Special Olympic athletes compete, and we like making a difference, and this is one way that we can do that.”
While Alpha Sigma Alpha did bring in the most numbers, the Green County Popsicles brought in the most donations. For this plunge the Green County Popsicles raised $8,453. Participants must raise a minimum of $75 ($50 minimum for students with a student I.D.) to take the plunge. Linda Bedwell, a member of the Green County Popsicles, took home the prize for most money raised for the third year in a row.
“You can’t go wrong doing this,” Bedwell said. “That’s what I tell people when they donate; it’s just a blessing.”
Participants decide to take the plunge for a myriad of reasons. Abigail Niepagen, a sophomore and Alpha Sigma Alpha participant says she has done a lot with them.
“I hold the Special Olympics near and dear to my heart,” Niepagen said.
Another participant, Caitlin Emmons of the Green County Popsicles, says she does it because she “love(s) supporting and helping people who cannot do certain things themselves.” Others, like Bedwell, simply “do it for the kids,” and love getting to work “hands on” with them.
The Polar Plunge is a widely known for being a hands-on philanthropy. Unlike many other philanthropies, in the end you get to actually see where the money you have donated is going. Donations go to supporting Special Olympic programs, supporting families, and much more.
“It’s really awesome when you can actually see your time and your money changing people’s lives whether that’s through Special Olympic athletes or any of the other philanthropies that we participate in,” Lindsay said. “Knowing that what we are doing is actually making a difference and being able to see that play out is really rewarding.”
Merriam Webster dictionary defines philanthropy as “the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people,” but to some who participated in the Polar Plunge this definition does not come close to being even just the tip of the iceberg. Niepagen defines philanthropy as “getting involved in something bigger than yourself.” Anita Bean, volunteer area director for the Special Olympics, agrees with Niepagen. “You should always give yourself to help others, it makes my life better to help others.”
If you are looking to “get involved in something bigger than yourself,” and help raise awareness for Special Olympics, you can visit their website at www.specialolympics.org/donate-to-charity to donate. Special Olympics is a nonprofit organization and receives no federal or state funds and relies entirely on civic and private donations and fundraising, like the Polar Plunge, to support our athletes; every penny counts.
The Special Olympic oath is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Those who faced the freezing waters of the Polar Plunge have proven to be brave, and like our athletes, those who donate are winners too.
“Thank you to everyone who donated,” Bedwell said, “because I’m just the go-between, and those who donate are the real winners.”