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Students plunge into frigid waters for Special Olympics

February 26, 2012
Photo by Kelsie Thompson | The State News

About 350 daring students and community members in costume faced 32-degree water at the eighth annual Lansing Polar Plunge Sunday afternoon.

The event, which took place at the Eagle Eye Golf Club, 15500 Chandler Rd. in Bath, Mich., raised nearly $70,000 to benefit the Special Olympics Michigan, said Anne Goudie, the program’s area director of Ingham and Eaton Counties.

“It’s one of our biggest annual fundraisers that we do to benefit the athletes in our area,” Goudie said. “It’s a blast.”

Participants dressed in their best costumes — ranging from Batman to beach bums — and jumped into a frigid pond where the Capital Area Dive Team waited to assist them back to shore.

MSU police, local businesses including Harrison Roadhouse, 122 N. Harrison Road, and several other student groups attended to help support the cause.

The event, which started at 1 p.m., consisted of a parade of costumes, the official plunge and a post-plunge party with food and beverages where the organization announced awards for the top fundraising teams and best costumes.

With around 2,500 athletes in Ingham and Eaton counties competing in 21 different sports year round for Special Olympics, Goudie said the proceeds will be used throughout the community to raise awareness and help put on sporting events.

“We don’t receive any state or federal funding, so we have to raise our own money,” Goudie said. “Everything that we raise in the community stays in the community.”

For kinesiology junior and member of the MSU Phi Epsilon Kappa plunge team Sydney Savage, it was her first time participating in the event.

“I was scared out of my mind at first, but it was actually really invigorating,” Savage said. “It was extremely cold, but it was awesome.”

Savage, along with a few other members of her fraternity, raised $690 for the Special Olympics Michigan through admission fees and sponsorships.

“We’ve never really done anything like this before, so we thought why not experience something new while supporting a good cause,” she said.

East Lansing resident and Special Olympics Michigan athlete Donny Vanderwaals wasn’t afraid to take the plunge since it was his fifth year participating in the event.

Vanderwaals, who is an active athlete in the Special Olympics, said he plays basketball, hockey and volleyball.

He said it is important to raise money for the nonprofit organization because it gives him and his fellow athletes the opportunity to play sports, build confidence and have fun.

“I do it to raise money for the Special Olympics,” Vanderwaals said. “It was cold, but I had a good time.”

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