Taking the plunge

Some people choose to spend their winter Saturday afternoons shopping, cleaning the house, watching movies or generally anything else taking place indoors. Other people, however, like the participants in the 2014 Law Enforcement Polar Plunge, chose to spend their winter afternoon jumping into a vat of icy cold water, all in the name of helping the Special Olympics.

The 2014 Law Enforcement Polar Plunge was held outside of Sleep Inn & Suites at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Participants lined up and took their turns jumping into a vat of frigid water, but not before Margie Zietz, police officer and the event’s emcee, made them answer a few questions to make them further freeze before their jump. A panel of five judges, mostly consisting of law enforcement officers, held up a number from one through five indicating their score of the participant’s plunge. The participant would then clamor out of the water at lightning speed and head presumably straight for the hot tub inside the hotel.

Before the polar plunge event, participants collected pledges in exchange for jumping into the cold water in the winter. The amount each participant raised was announced prior to the person’s plunge.

Reid Huttenen, director of development for the Special Olympics, said the event drew a great turnout and people seemed to enjoy themselves, including those plunging into the water. The polar plunge is a nationwide event that started 10 years ago, he continued, to raise money for the Special Olympics. This is the second time the event has been held in Minot.

The Special Olympics program offers 15 sports, including basketball, soccer, skiing and swimming, and there are more than 1,400 participants statewide, Huttenen said. The Special Olympics have the true meaning of sports with the kids, he added, in that everyone still wants to win, but they also have a great time while participating. “There’s not enough good things to say about this program,” Huttenen said.

At the time of the interview, Huttenen said the total amount raised from Minot’s polar plunge hadn’t been added up yet, but was hoping that more than $3,000 had been raised. Last year Minot raised more than $2,000. Huttenen thought more money would be raised this year. “A lot of the money raised today will go for the Special Olympics state basketball tournament,” he said. The tournament is held in Minot each year and will take place March 7-8 at the Minot State University Dome.

There were more than 25 participants in the 2014 Law Enforcement Polar Plunge, with a great turnout from the volunteers, Huttenen said. “Everyone is a huge supporter of Special Olympics.”

Typically, the Law Enforcement Polar Plunge is held in the spring, Huttenen said. Minot’s polar plunge was the first one for the season. Other locations where the polar plunge will take place include Grand Forks, Fargo, Jamestown, Bismarck and Dickinson. Huttenen said they have to get creative in North Dakota with the polar plunge since there aren’t many lakes and the river isn’t safe with the current. Usually in other states, they’ll drill a hole in a lake.

Dave Bower, one of the plungers and who serves as the chief of security forces training for the 91st Security Forces group at the Minot Air Force Base, who was nice enough to answer a few questions before heading off to the hot tub, said this was his second time jumping into the cold water. He enjoys participating in this event because it’s a great community event and nice to pull the community together to help the Special Olympics. Plunging into the water was “refreshing and an eye-opener,” he added. “You know it’ll be cold and it takes your breath away.” Bower said he would jump in the water again next year, too.

“I think the water is cold no matter where you go,” Huttenen added. “It’s just how cold it is outside” before jumping in that matters.