Hundreds take the polar plunge: 'It means a lot for people to do this'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Over 300 people dashed down the bank of the Willamette River to take an ice cold dip Saturday morning for the third annual polar plunge.

The event raises thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics competition this summer.

For many, the sprint down to the river was much slower than the sprint back to their waiting towels. As Aaron Smith put it, the 42-degree water woke up anyone who took the polar plunge.

"Exhilarating! Like I just jumped out of bed and had my first cup of coffee," said Smith.

Sadie Bollman said that her Polar Plunge experience was shocking.

"It was really cold! (I feel) better but I can't feel my toes," Bollman said.

The polar plunge is the largest statewide fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

In Eugene, plunge participants raised over $3,200. Brittany Quick-Warner said that this year made for their most successful year yet.

"This is the third year so the word is finally getting out there and people know about it," said Quick-Warner. "We have had a lot of teams come back the last couple years and some really amazing fundraiser who are passionate about this cause."

Many of the participants ran out of the water just as quickly as they ran in. People like Nicole Norris needed a little convincing before taking the plunge.

"We did it last year. Last year when they told us about it I was like ugh no thank you," Norris said.

Others, like Kyla Stratton, needed no convincing at all.

"I had a sister with down syndrome and she grew up doing the Special Olympics ... it was a big part of our lives so it means a lot for people to do this," Stratton said.

Organizers said the water was colder this year than previous years.

The funds are used to send athletes and their families to the state Special Olympics this summer. Each participant had to raise 50-dollars in order to take a dip in the icy waters.