This year’s Polar Plunge raised over $16,000 for Manhattan’s Special Olympics, with over 85 polar plunge participants freezing for a reason on Saturday, March 26, at Tuttle Creek State Park.
Krystin Guggisberg, sports and program manager of Special Olympics Kansas, said this year’s event was a success.
“We had beautiful weather, we had a ton of people show up and our fundraising was great this year,” Guggisberg said.
The money raised at the Polar Plunge goes to funding sporting events, athlete leadership and health checks.
“We have nearly 100 athletes in the Manhattan community alone,” Guggisberg said. “The money raised from this goes to funding the events we do year-round, our athlete leadership programming that we do and a lot of health and promotions that we do. All of our athletes get screened for healthy eyes, healthy ears and healthy feet.”
Plungers raise at least $75 to participate in the Polar Plunge and often create teams to raise money and compete in various contests such as the costume contest.
This year’s theme for the costume contest was “Polar Opposites,” but teams took the theme in many different directions, including groups dressing up as polar bears, Kansas State fans and the band Kiss.
Riley County Police Department dispatcher Isabelle Terpstra was part of the police department’s dispatch team that dressed up as Kiss. Terpstra said she enjoys the costume contest every year. She has dressed up as Barnacle Boy and Mermaid Man from “SpongeBob” and a “Powerpuff Girl” in years past.
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Even though the dispatch team lost the contest to Riley County Emergency Medical Services, they had painted smiles on their faces the whole time.
“The costume contest is really fun,” Terpstra said. “Going into the water is very cold and terrible, but it is all for a good cause, and we are here to raise money, so that is what we will do.”
Many K-State students volunteered and participated in the Polar Plunge. Zachary Kley, senior in mechanical engineering, volunteers with the event through his fraternity, Sigma Tau Gamma.
“I like to volunteer my time, but I also like to have fun, so I always get really excited to do the Polar Plunge,” Kley said. “Last year, I did a belly flop.”
Kley continued the belly flop tradition this year as well. Belly flops aside, the community support for this event is very encouraging to the athletes and their families.
“We are so thrilled to have so many K-State students involved,” Guggisberg said. “So many community members, athletes and their families always come out full force for this event — so for them to see the community show up for this event is really fun.”
Dispatch Supervisor for RCPD Amanda Randazzo encourages people to learn more about the athletes they help.
“Look at some of the children that we help: it helps them come out, compete, be athletes and do the best that they can,” Randazzo said. “It really is just about helping them do their best.”
More ways to get involved are available through the Kansas Special Olympics website.