Manhattan groups take “Polar Plunge” for Special Olympics

Members of Team Freedom rush into the frigid water at Tuttle Creek for the annual Polar Plunge on Feb. 13, 2016. (Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

Manhattan community members and groups gathered at Tuttle Creek State Park to “plunge” into the lake’s wintery water to raise funds for Special Olympics Saturday afternoon.

During the annual Polar Plunge, teams from different local groups and organizations set up near the lakeshore and, with the support of spectators, each took a turn getting into the water. Teams obtained sponsors to donate money to Special Olympics prior to the event, according to Luke Schulte, vice president of development for Special Olympics Kansas.

“One of the coolest things about Polar Plunge is just the crazy atmosphere,” Schulte said. “It’s not very often that you can stand on the side of the beach in the middle of February and watch people jump into this cold water. It’s just a great time.”

Aaron Tucker, junior in graphic design and member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, said participating in the Polar Plunge is not only a chance for members of the fraternity to have fun and bond, but is also a chance for him and his brothers to help make an impact on the community.

“It’s an opportunity for us to just get to bond and to get to do something crazy together, but we also get to help support the Special Olympics and raise money for it, so it’s all for a good cause,” Tucker said.

Proceeds collected by the teams are donated to Special Olympics Kansas, according to Jamie Schnee, Manhattan Special Olympics treasurer and Slippery When Wet team leader. Schnee said her team, which consisted of 48 plungers, raised about $6,000 this year for the state’s Special Olympics program, 40 percent of which went to Manhattan Special Olympics.

Schnee said that at the state level, funds raised during Polar Plunges go toward putting on state and regional competitions and meals for Special Olympics athletes. The local Special Olympics group will use its share of the proceeds for transportation to those competitions and to purchase new uniforms.

“I think it solidifies everyone,” Schnee said. “We’re all out here for one cause — for Special Olympics. It’s fun because we’re all out here freezing, but really, we do it for our Special Olympics athletes. We’re more like a family than an organization.”

Schnee said she would encourage those who want to help make a difference in the community to participate in the next Polar Plunge, as Special Olympics affects so many lives in the Manhattan area.

“I say, come and do it,” Schnee said. “Stick your toe in, stick your finger in the lake, go all the way under the water, just come and say that you did it. Do it for Special Olympics. Come support a whole community of people who support this community.”

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.