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Polar Plunge raises $27,000 for Special Olympics Ohio

On the chilly afternoon of Feb. 8, students and community members gathered together at Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio, to support a strong cause and plunge into some frigid lake water.

The seventh annual Ohio University Polar Bear Plunge, which was hosted by the Ohio University Police Department and Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity, brought out about 200 people from multiple companies and organizations, to jump into Lake Snowden for charity. The event raised more than $27,000 for Special Olympics Ohio programs.

Participants were required to raise a minimum of $50 each and all proceeds went to support Special Olympics Ohio.

"It's truly amazing how much people care about this cause. When we saw last night that we were close to raising $22,000, we were incredibly excited," said Brett Engelhart, student coordinator for the Polar Plunge.

"The proceeds go toward our year-round sports training programs and the eight state-wide competitions that we put together," said Paige Ludwig, a representative from Special Olympics and the coordinator for this event."

Each year, there is an individual costume contest to go along with the theme of the plunge. John Hrobat, a sophomore from Fairview Park, Ohio, received a $25 dollar Amazon gift card for winning the individual contest with his Dudley Do-Right costume.  

The Athens Real Estate Company took home the best group costume prize with their festive animal costumes, which fit well with the theme of the plunge, "Get Wild."
Finally, teams took turns running into the freezing water of Lake Snowden, and then quickly running back to grab towels, blankets and warm clothes.

"Lake Snowden cut a hole in the ice last night, but it froze over again this morning," said Ludwig, "We just hope everyone stays safe and enjoys the experience."

In order to ensure safety, the Athens Fire Department, OUPD and a team of EMS specialists were on duty.

"I'm here to make sure everyone gets in and out of that water safely. That is all I am hoping for," said OUPD Sgt. Michael Redecker.

Despite the cold, participants were glad that they could support such a great cause.

"I think the people we do this for really deserve it," said first-time plunger Dave Rollands.


Clad in a variety of costumes, participants in the Polar Plunge jump into the icy waters of Lake Snowden on Feb. 8, 2014. Photo by Lauren Pond.


Robin Barnes introduces a participant in the Polar Plunge costume contest on Feb. 8, 2014, at Lake Snowden. Photo by Lauren Pond.


Nate Anderson, who helped clear a portion of Lake Snowden for the Polar Plunge, keeps an eye on participants. Photo by Lauren Pond.


Students jump in Lake Snowden on Feb. 8, 2014. Photo by Lauren Pond.


Ohio University freshman David Torok, center, and other members of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity cheer 2014 during the Polar Plunge. Photo by Lauren Pond.


Portrait of Polar Plunge student coordinator Brett Engelhart. Photo by Olivia Wallace.


Clay Matthew poses as a penguin during the Polar Plunge. Photo by Olivia Wallace.


Jared Dudus (left) and Matt Battista (right) dressed up for the annual Polar Plunge at Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio. Photo by Olivia Wallace.