Cracking the ice for Special Olympics

by Sue Austreng
Staff Writer

Taking a chilly dip to support Special Olympics Minnesota, thousands have participated in the annual Polar Bear Plunge, diving into frozen lakes across the frigid state for the past 15 years – but never in Anoka County.

Posed and plunging, a past Polar Bear Plunge participant hits the water. Photo courtesy of Polar Bear Plunge

Well, Coon Rapids police officer Brian Beedle, eager to stage the plunge nearby, cracked the ice with Special Olympics event planners last fall and, sure enough, they agreed to schedule the Feb. 11 Polar Bear Plunge event at Crooked Lake.

Once word got out, teams of police officers and sheriffs deputies, school teachers and business people promised to take a plunge for Minnesota’s Special Olympics athletes.

Around the world, those athletes follow the oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Polar Bear Plungers follow the athletes’ example by bravely taking a chilly dip.

“So far we have 235 people doing the plunge in Crooked Lake,” Beedle said.

Beedle is, of course, one of those plungers and he’s joined by 11 others who make up the Coon Rapids Police Department (CRPD) plunge team – among them his wife Kimberly “Lady Bug” Beedle.

Plunge teams are always welcome for the event, presented each year by Minnesota law enforcement.

In just three easy steps you’re ready to take the plunge:

1. Form a team and register online at www.plungemn.org.

2. Collect pledges. Each plunger must collect a minimum of $75 in pledges. Special Olympics Minnesota will keep track of pledges made online.

3. Bring pledges when checking in at the plunge location.

And remember: the plungers are freezin’ for a reason. Raising money for Minnesota’s Special Olympics athletes, each plunger enlists donors and collects financial support.

“You pledge, we plunge,” said CRPD plunger Officer Bryan Platz, who reports that at presstime, the CRPD team ranked second statewide behind Blaine Police Department among law enforcement teams in dollars raised for the plunge.

With a goal of raising $4,825 CRPD has raised $2,863; Blaine Police have raised $2,895.

Ranked third is the Anoka County Sheriffs Office team, raising $2,285 so far.

“This is just a great way to raise money for Special Olympics,” said Beedle, who for the past decade or so has also participated in the Special Olympics Torch Run.

To boost CRPD’s donation to the Special Olympics, Broadway Pizza staged an all-you-can-eat pizza fund-raiser at the Coon Rapids restaurant Jan. 17.

Hundreds attended the four-hour event, donating money, offering support and increasing awareness of Anoka County’s first-ever Polar Bear Plunge event.

When asked how his team is preparing for the Feb. 11 plunge, Beedle said, “Well, just walk outside. In Minnesota, in January, that will get you ready,” he said as temperatures dipped to the single digits during the Jan. 17 Broadway Pizza fund-raiser.

“For me, I’m fine-tuning my body in the hot tub at Lifetime Fitness. That and taking a healthy dose of denial,” said Platz.

For Platz, whose little boy has muscular dystrophy, the plunge takes on special meaning.

“Having a child with a disability gives you a whole new perspective – and, who knows, (my son) may be in Special Olympics some day,” Platz said.

In addition to CRPD, Blaine police and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Anoka County teams signed up to take the plunge at Crooked Lake include Ramsey police, Coon Rapids Middle School, Anoka Student Council, Oak View Middle School, Carlson Toyota, as well as the Fellowship of the Freeze, Sisterhood of the Snow and the Snow Monkeys.

“Everyone has a lot of fun with this, and some teams get pretty creative,” said Platz, describing wacky costumes and team names sometimes adopted by plunge teams.

In 2011, 11,000 participants raised more than $2.2 million for Special Olympics Minnesota with their participation in the Polar Bear Plunge.

This year, with the Crooked Lake plunge in the mix, a total of 15 locations throughout Minnesota will stage the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge events. (See sidebar)

To learn more about the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge, to track pledges made – and to make one of your own – visit www.plungemn.org.

2012 Polar Bear Plunge locations

Jan. 28 : White Bear Lake, Ramsey Beach

Jan. 28: Willmar/Spicer, Green Lake

Feb. 4: Maple Grove, Weaver Lake

Feb. 11: Anoka County, Crooked Lake

Feb. 11: Rochester, Foster Arends Park

Feb. 11: St. Peter, Hallett’s Pond

Feb. 18: Duluth, Canal Park

Feb. 18: Prior Lake, Sandy Point Beach

Feb. 18: St. Cloud, 400 Supper Club

Feb. 25: South Metro, Crystal Beach, Burnsville

Feb. 26: Alexandria, Arrowwood Resort

March 3: Brainerd, Breezy Point Resort

March 3: Minneapolis, Thomas Beach, Lake Calhoun

March 10: Eden Prairie, Round Lake Park

March 10: Mille Lacs, Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs

March 17: Grand Rapids, Sugar Lake Lodge

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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