Trying to think of something special to do with your sweetie, or for someone you love on Valentine’s Day 2015? This may be the only time you are allowed to give your love a cold shoulder. How about making a time or monetary donation, and taking the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Kentucky (SOKY) without even leaving Owensboro/Daviess County?
The Special Olympics Mission is “to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities by giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
Special Olympics’ signature event, The Polar Plunge, celebrates its 17th year in Kentucky this year. In these few years, the event has brought in more than $6.5 million for Special Olympics Kentucky programs.
If you aren’t familiar with “The Plunge,” it works like a Walk-A-Thon. Polar Bears register and ask friends and family to support them in their efforts, which will benefit Special Olympics. The difference is that Polar Bears take a chilly plunge, or dip, into either a lake or a pool.
Kendra Lowther, Special Projects Coordinator, says this is the 10th year for the Owensboro Plunge. Residents are in for a treat in 2015, as the plunge will take place in beautiful downtown Owensboro at the Mitch McConnell Plaza.
This year, with the new location, Kendra says, Special Olympics wants to encourage Owensboro residents to come out and participate, or be a spectator and support the cause. Previous years have seen 100+ “plungers.” However, in 2015 coordinators would like to see at least 250 participants. Perhaps this is a bucket list item that SOKY can help the local community check off that list.
What’s new this year, besides the location? The 2015 Polar Plunge festivities include the inaugural Donut Dash 5K, a fun run/walk through Downtown Owensboro where participants have the opportunity to also plunge into donuts, furnished by The Rolling Pin Bakery, as part of their run. Participants are not just limited to plunging or dashing, they can double their fun and do both!
Local radio personality with WBKR, Chad Benefield, is a long-time committee member and the emcee for the event. When asked how long, he quips, “Over 10 years, but I’ve lost track. I think it’s because my brain is frost-bitten.” He humbly puts his money and his body where his mouth is by also participating as a plunger. Chad, in his good humor, says, “It’s just an awful way to raise money and every time I hit the freezing cold water I swear I see dead relatives waving me toward the white light. But it’s an absolute blast. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s the one charity event in town where someone can launch an obscenity into the air and everyone forgives them.”
Chad thinks the Donut Dash 5K will be a fun addition. Just before the plunge, he explains, “At the starting line, runners are given a donut hole. At the first mile marker they’ll get the donut the hole came from. And the second mile marker, they’ll get a chocolate long john. And at the end of the race they’ll get . . . in honor of the Polar Bear Plunge . . . a bear claw!” Some may run from the sweet treats, as others run towards them, either way it’s a new and inventive way to engage the community in an event to help everyone have the opportunity to train and compete as an athlete.
This cause is close to Chad’s heart, “I am a huge fan of the Olympics Games. Summer. Winter. I’m there. And I think the reason I have been so drawn to them (participants), since I was a child really, is that I love underdog stories, and I love when anyone overcomes obstacles to achieve their goals and cross a finish line. And the Special Olympics are the ultimate testament to that. These Olympians, in many ways, are the ultimate underdogs. The Special Olympics gives them a platform to train, compete and conquer. It’s an amazing organization and the athletes involved are proof that the world of sports is the single most unifying force on the planet. There may be agony in defeat, but with these incredible and amazing special Olympians, there is pure thrill in victory.”
The beautiful thing about the Polar Plunge and Donut Dash 5K is that you do not have to be an athlete; you just have to be able to eat donuts, walk, run or be willing to take a chilly plunge for a wonderful cause.
So on Valentine’s Day 2015, show Special Olympics of Kentucky some love by participating in the Owensboro Polar Plunge!
For more information or to register, contact Candace Thompson at 800-633-7403 or 502-326-5002 or via e-mail at [email protected]