More than 400 people brave the frigid waters of Green Lake, in Spicer, Minn., raising $78K for Special Olympics
WILLMAR — The ninth annual Polar Bear Plunge Saturday afternoon at Green Lake in Spicer drew 410 plungers and raised approximately $78,000. The event is sponsored by law enforcement to raise money for Minnesota Special Olympics programs.
Willmar Police Capt. Jim Felt, committee chairman, was pleased with the turnout and the community support. He said a lot of brave people showed up to jump into the cold Green Lake water for the event.
“It’s been great in this area,’’ he said. “It continues to grow every year and we love the event and love the support here and it’s going to a great cause for Special Olympics.’’
Members of 10 emergency service agencies in Willmar, Spicer, New London and Kandiyohi County are involved in the event.
Plungers, many in groups and wearing costumes, jumped into a large hole cut in the ice at Saulsbury Beach.
They are assisted out of the water by personnel in waterproof and insulated outfits. Heated tents were provided for plungers to change their clothes.
For this year’s event, Felt said, the location was moved slightly and plungers were given specific times for plunging to provide better crowd management. Teams waited in nearby Zorbaz restaurant or at the Legion or elsewhere until it was their time to plunge.
“There’s always a few bugs that we need to work out, but every year we want to try and improve it and make it faster and more fun for people,’’ Felt said.
The air temperature at plunge time was 20 degrees, but a 7 mph southeast breeze created a wind chill of 11 degrees. The water temperature was a “balmy’’ 33 degrees, according to organizers who compiled weather statistics.
Inside Zorbaz, Rice Hospital lab employees and an exchange student from Denmark, all wearing blue work clothes and white coats, were waiting their turn along with dozens of other plungers.
“It’s a very good cause and we’re going to freeze our butts, but that’s OK,’’ said group member Tunie Welker.
Another group waiting their turn consisted of Heather Redden from Yuma, Ariz., Vanessa Walsh of Puyallup, Wash., and Dan Wessling from Dayton, Ohio
They were brought to Spicer by Eric Reetz of Eden Valley. Reetz said this was his fourth plunge but it was the first time for his friends.
“They all flew in just for this,’’ said Reetz.
“I came from 79-degree weather,’’ said Redden. She said she had not been in Minnesota before. “It’s darned cold,’’ she said.
Among the groups that had plunged and were warming up inside Zorbaz was a seven-member team representing the Willmar district office of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Shannon Pfau of New London, whose husband works for MnDOT, said this was her third plunge and said she would do it again next year.
“It’s a very good cause,’’ she said.
Brady Pfau of New London said this was his first plunge and said it took his breath away.
“It was pretty cold,’’ he said.