The third annual Anoka County Polar Bear Plunge saw 740 people jump into bitterly cold Crooked Lake waters Feb. 8.
The event, presented by law enforcement, raised approximately $150,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota, providing athletes with disabilities opportunities to compete in various sporting events.
2014 broke participation and fundraising records at Crooked Lake, both set last year when 693 Plungers raised $139,203.
The Polar Bear Plunge is an annual highlight for Katie Timmer, a Special Olympics athlete with the Anoka County Cougars. “I just love it because it brings sheer joy to the athletes,” she said.
The Anoka County Cougars and the Northern Lights Special Olympics team cheered on Plunge participants as they entered the registration tent mid-morning. Before the Plunge, the group gathered on the ice to recite the Special Olympics athlete oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Plungers needed to channel their own bravery before leaping into the icy lake Saturday.
Many allowed themselves to be completely submerged before sprinting up the hill and into a heat tent.
The 40 members on the Sheriff’s Posse team from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office made the first splash.
“I’m told the water is balmy,” Sheriff James Stuart joked before he took the Plunge.
“I’m so nervous,” said one of the Sheriff’s Posse’s youngest members, 6-year-old Kylee De Los Reyes, some time before taking the Plunge. Walking onto the ice, Kylee was in tears.
She wasn’t the only one who was apprehensive.
Jackie Cogswell, a member of the Famous Dave’s Swine Divers team, had nightmares about the Plunge for two months, she said.
“I loved it,” Cogswell said afterwards. “I’m doing it next year for sure.”
Another first-timer, Curt Brueggeman, a member of the Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping team, doesn’t know how to swim. With water little more than waist deep and two members of the Anoka County Dive Team ready-and-waiting, he took the Plunge in a Sasquatch suit. He called the experience “awesome.” Carrying home his wet suit, which weighed 100 pounds after the jump, he estimated, was less fun.
As a veteran Plunger, the jump wasn’t nearly so bad this year, said Brian Summerville, one of 12 on the Anoka Middle School for the Arts team. The anticipation is the worst, he said. One thing didn’t change for Summerville: “I couldn’t breathe until I got to the top of the hill.”
The Northern Lights, Coon Rapids Middle School, Anoka Masons and Anoka County Sheriff’s Office teams were the top fundraisers in Anoka County this year.
Statewide, the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser runs from January to March. Last year, the Plunge raised more than $3 million for Special Olympics Minnesota.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org