Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics: 'It just makes it worth it'

More than 400 people jumped into the cold Willamette River at Maurie Jacobs Park Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 as part of the Polar Plunge. The Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics Oregon. Groups dressed in costumes and ran in the water together. Photo by Amanda Butt

EUGENE, Ore. – Eugene’s annual Polar Plunge brought out a record number of people Saturday.

More than 400 people braved the icy water and it was all for Special Olympics.

“The athletes have such a special feeling about them. It just makes it worth it,” said Carolynn Duncan, a participant at the Polar Plunge.

The Polar Plunge allows people to donate to Special Olympics in a rather unconventional way.

“This is how we get the money for our athletes and the programs that they run,” said Emily Ressegger, Polar Plunge event manager.

Saturday, the participants jumped into the Willamette River under blue skies at Maurie Jacobs Park.

Those who plunged donated at least $50 each.

Officers from several agencies supervised the event, including the dive team from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. But some plungers weren’t worried about safety, they were more worried about preparing for the cold water.

Duncan drove from Portland to participate in her fourth Polar Plunge. She remembers when she prepared for her first one.

“Got in a bathing suit, got in a tutu, got in flip flops, jumped in the shower and sat there when the timer went for 60 seconds and it was so horrible,” Duncan said.

Although Duncan hated the cold water, she said she donated three times more than the minimum to support Special Olympics.

Organizers say they haven’t tallied up the donations yet, but they think it’s fair to say they raised more money than last year.

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