Next week patrons of Surry County Special Olympics will offer their support to the organization by jumping into almost-freezing cold water, as they have done for the past six years.
The Seventh Annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge will take place at Homeplace Recreational Park in Ararat on Feb. 24, with plunging beginning at noon.
“The water temperature should be about 40°F.,” said Bradley Key, Surry County Parks and Recreation’s coordinator of programs, special events and volunteerism. According to Key, participants will have several plunging options. They will be able to walk or jog in from the zero degree access area, jump in off the side, slide down a water slide or jump off a rope swing.
The pool is drained at this time of the year, said Key, but the park fills it with water from the creek for the event, and then drains it again. Key added that a lot of people wear costumes for the event, but he wore baggy clothing last year, and that was not a good idea. “Once you get in, you don’t want to waste any time getting out,” he said.
“Although last year, one participant, Robert Smith, trained for the polar plunge by conditioning his body in a pond. He was the first person in and stayed in while everybody else jumped in, at least 40 minutes. But we do not recommend that,” said Key. “Be clear about that. Don’t try this at home.” The Polar Plunge has safety precautions in place. A scuba diver is in the pool at all times.
All participants get a special tee shirt, but Key encouraged anyone who is going to plunge to call Surry Parks and Rec by Friday, Feb. 16. “It’s crunch time, and we’re going to order the tee shirts after 5 p.m. Friday. You can register after that, or even show up on the day of the event, but we can’t guarantee we’ll have a tee shirt in your size.”
Also, for people who donate $20 but don’t do the polar plunge, there is a special sweatshirt that reads, “Too Chicken to Plunge” with a graphic of a very frightened chicken. “We introduced it last year,” said Key, “and it was very successful. Some people are passionate about our program, but they are not going to jump into a freezing pool.” Donations and orders for the “Too Chicken to Plunge” shirt must also be received by Feb. 16.
“All proceeds from this event go to support local Special Olympics athletes in Surry County,” said Key. “We have a database of 500 athletes, and we are actively serving 300 of them.” Key said the most widely-known Special Olympics activities are the spring games which are held each year at a local high school. This year they will be held at East Surry High School on April 13. Spring games include softball, swimming, cheerleading and bowling.
But sports happen year round with golf, bocce and basketball in the fall. Other activities include a Special Olympics Kickoff party, Halloween Party, a Special Olympics Christmas Parade float and a Prom. Some athletes go on to statewide competition, with Summer games in Raleigh and Fall games in Charlotte. Funds are needed to cover athletes’ expenses for travel, hotel, uniforms, food and training for those events. Invitational scrimmages are held throughout the year.
Supporters of Special Olympics have several options to participate. Raise a minimum of $100 and “Toss Yourself.” Raise a minimum of $500 and “Toss your Boss/Pastor/Principal/Teacher/Sheriff/Chief.etc.” A Student Special allows teams of four students to participate for $25 each. There must be a team of four for this rate and anyone under 18 must have a signed parental waiver. “Too Chicken to Plunge” tee shirts are $20. To get the appropriate shirt in the correct size, register by Friday, Feb. 16. Time slots will be assigned at registration. Call 336-401-8235 to register. Homeplace Recreational Park is at 258 Homeplace Park Road, Ararat.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.