By TESA GLASS
REND LAKE — —
The countdown to the Law Enforcement Torch Run Special Olympics Polar Plunge has begun.
"Right now, we have 265 pre-registered plungers," said Rhonda Knight of Special Olympics Area 14.
Knight admits that having people take a plunge into the winter waters of Rend Lake may sound a little crazy, but it's all for fun and to raise awareness of Special Olympics and funds to support special athletes.
"People don't always realize Special Olympics is in the area," Knight said. "They don't see it every day. When they come out to the lake, dress up, and see what it's all about, see the athletes that plunge too, they get more of an awareness of what we do. It's not just about sports, it's about transforming lives and giving them an opportunity to be a part of the community."
Area 14 serves special athletes in Jefferson, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Marion, Pope, Saline, Wabash, Wayne and White counties. The Polar Plunge will be held March 2 at South Sandusky Beach at Rend Lake. Check-in for plungers is at 10 a.m. with the Plunge taking place at noon. Lunch will follow the Plunge at the Benton Eagles, where an awards ceremony will take place.
"This year it will be even better," Knight promised. "We've always had someone act as emcee for the awards, but this year, I'm giving the program over to the athletes and the Project Unify Kids at Mt. Vernon Township High School. It's a peer group that promotes inclusion and acceptance. They are taking the program, and I think that will have more of an impact."
Some of the awards will be for best costume, the individual who raises the most money, the community group that raises the most money, and a new category this year, the Cool School Challenge. Individual awards under the challenge are for the most money raised, most spirit and most team members, Knight said.
"We really have good time," Knight said. "Why waste an opportunity to give out awards, have more fun and a little party?"
To participate, Polar Plungers are required to collect a minimum of $75 in donations.
Knight said Area 14 Special Olympics supports services to 540 special athletes at this time. Funds raised will go toward that support and stay in this area.
Anyone who would like to learn more about the Polar Plunge may go to www.plungeillinois.com or can contact Knight at 383-4400.