MU Polar Plunge 2023
People take the plunge after raising money for the Special Olympics.
Graphic by Madison Cunningham

‘Freezin’ for a Reason’: Many Take Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Madison Cunningham

On a chilly 43-degree Fahrenheit day, 68 individuals went for a dive in an above-ground pool of freezing water on Saturday Feb. 18. These individuals went “freezin’ for a reason” to raise money for the Special Olympics, showing their commitment to the cause.

Special Olympics Indiana—an organization dedicated to raising funds for the Special Olympics—hosted their annual Polar Plunge at Manchester University. This organization supports nearly 16,000 Special Olympics athletes throughout Indiana each year, aiming to cover the cost of their training and competitions.

The Polar Plunge takes place in 15 different locations across Indiana, including North Manchester. This was Manchester University’s fourth year hosting the event.

Of the 68 people who took part in the Polar Plunge, some jumped in teams while others participated as individuals. Altogether, participants raised over $18,000 for the cause.

In order to participate in the plunge, each individual must raise at least $85. Many people traveled to North Manchester to take part; some even came as far as Switzerland to show their support.

The Plunge also contained three contests throughout the event. Prizes were awarded to the team that raised the most money, the individual that raised the most money, and the participant who had the best costume in the costume contest (both individual and team).

London Spangle, a student at Manchester Junior/Senior High school, participated for her first time in the Polar Plunge. She raised the most money for the cause, single handedly pulling in over $700.

Spangle was inspired to take part in the plunge by her dad, but also wanted to do it for one of her fellow classmates at Manchester High who has special needs. “I just wanted to do it for him,” she said. What was her favorite part of the plunge? Spangle smiled and said: “Jumping in. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

For many participants, like Spangle, taking the plunge was their favorite part, including Daniel Barbre, a Manchester University student (class of 2024). Barbre took a dive like a starfish, with his arms and legs spread horizontally, sending water splashing as he plummeted into the pool. This was his first time participating in the Polar Plunge and he was inspired by his job to take part in the experience.

As for the team that raised the most money for the event, Manchester Community schools pulled in the most. They were able to raise over $3,000 for the cause.

A costume contest was also held for the participants. Many participants dressed in different themed costumes as they jumped in the water. A group of Manchester High School students dressed in onesies of their favorite characters while others dressed in hippie attire and even penguin suits.

One team titled “Team Space Pants,” which included first year participants, Kaycee Gieras and Bryce Lytle, as well as fifth year participants, Megan Meinert and Pam Rensberger, plunged in their space themed pants and black long sleeve shirts. “We volunteer with Special Olympics down in Rochester (IN) out of the Fulton County,” Rensberger said. “We just decided we used to do it down in Kokomo (IN) and now we all came to North Manchester. So, we got co-workers and family doing it all together!”

“Team Space Pants” got their inspiration for the costumes from a Saturday Night Live skit in which guest host Peter Dinklage wears a platinum wig and sings an upbeat song about his pants, which have planets on them. According to the song, the pants are meant to blow the viewers’ mind; but for this team of participants, they were meant to blow the plungers into the water.

Rensberger, the group’s shortest member, played Dinklage’s part and went diving in a silver wig. To Rensberger’s surprise, the wig successfully withheld the dive.

The plunge was organized by the office of Student Life, specifically Kelsey Gower, Student Life office manager and Abby Van Vlerah, Vice President for Student Life. Although Gower and Van Vlerah decided not to plunge this year, Van Vlerah has plunged in years past. “I always say if students participate in it and ask me to plunge, I will plunge,” said Van Vlerah with a grin, as she supported plungers from the sidelines.