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Polar Plunges raise $2.85M

SPICER -- Polar Plunge events this year raised a record $2.85 million for Minnesota Special Olympics.

More than 14,000 people participated in 17 events and raised money by accepting the challenge to jump into ice cold lakes.

An event on Green Lake in Spicer raised $80,004.

The money was raised at 16 events in Minnesota and one at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. The events are coordinated by law enforcement agencies to support Minnesota athletes.

Participants do the Plunge in teams of coworkers, friends or club members and raise money by asking for pledges. Each participant raises at least $75.

This year the average plunger raised about $200.

Polar Bear Plunge fundraisers help Special Olympics Minnesota offer year-round sports training and competition to more than 7,200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The Plunge celebrated several firsts this year, including participation by Minnesota troops stationed overseas. The first plunges were held in Anoka County and at Mille Lacs. It was also the first time Pee-Wee Plungers were able to participate by jumping into an icy cold pool.

The mild winter also made it the first time a Plunge event was held in 60-degree weather.

In 2011, the Plunge events included more than 11,000 people and raised more than $2.2 million.

"We are so grateful for the thousands of Minnesotans who showed their generous and adventurous spirits by jumping into icy water to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes," said David Dorn, president of Special Olympics Minnesota, in a news release. "We are also very proud of our partnership with law enforcement across the state and thankful for the law enforcement personnel who made the events possible."

The record-breaking season should help Special Olympics reach more athletes and provide additional opportunities, he said.

The 2013 Polar Bear Plunge season will kick off in January and online registration is expected to be open in October at