Special Olympics Indiana (SO Indiana) is a non-profit organization that aims to provide year-round sports training and competitions in more than 20 Olympic sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
In Indiana alone, there are over 12,000 athletes. SO Indiana is just a small organization in all of the Special Olympic programs, which reach over 4 million athletes worldwide.
Special Olympics receives no federal or state funds, so the organization runs solely on civic and individual donation. SO Indiana puts on a number of fund raising events throughout the year, one of the largest being the Polar Plunge.
Each year, hundreds of Hoosiers sign up to take the Plunge and raise money for Special Olympics in the process. Plunges start in early February and run until the beginning of March all across Indiana.
At IUPUI, a group of over 100 students plunged this past Saturday, March 4, at Eagle Creek Park. Alpha Sigma Alpha (ASA) at IUPUI raises money for Special Olympics year round and all of the women take the Plunge every year.
“Each year our women surprise me with the donations they bring in for this organization. This year, we set our goal at $10,000,” Jamie Mittman, ASA’s Service and Charitable Giving Chairman said.
Mittman told her sorority that if they could raise over their goal, she would cut off her hair and donate it to charity. The sorority ended up raising over $14,000 and are not through raising money until March 10.
The day of the Plunge, tensions were high. There were a lot of first time plungers this year in the sororities 100 person team, one of them being IUPUI freshman, Lauren Nelson.
“I was definitely scared to take the Plunge. I was freezing just walking around in shorts before actually touching the water,” Nelson said. “Knowing what I was plunging for made it all worth it though.”
As the whole team lined up to run into the lake, they could be heard all around cheering and making noise for the other plungers as well as letting everyone know that ASA was there to Plunge.
Mittman was the start of their cheers and even brought confetti poppers and noisemakers to cheer on the other participants.
“We wanted everyone to bee as pumped up and excited as we were,” Mittman said.
At 11 a.m. on March 4, Alpha Sigma Alpha’s team of 100 people plunged into the freezing water. High-pitched college girl screams rippled the water as some brave women went all the way under the cold water and others barely made it thigh deep.
“This year wasn’t nearly as bad as others,” Ashton Reed, a seasoned plunger, said. “Two years ago, we had to wait to plunge because they had to cut a hole out of the ice. That made today seem like a cake walk.”
The women of ASA plan to continue to raise money for Special Olympics and plan to Plunge again next year. Each year they have participated, they have won the award for largest participating team and they aren’t ready to give up their title yet.
Special Olympics holds a close place in many of these women’s hearts and that’s why they come out each year. The official Polar Plunge motto says it best, they’re out there “Freezin’ for a Reason.”