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Fort Wayne Takes the Plunge for Special Olympics

A group of Kurtz’s friends take the plunge at Fort Wayne’s Special Olympics Polar Plunge.

Photo credit: Kevin Jehl

A group of Kurtz’s friends take the plunge at Fort Wayne’s Special Olympics Polar Plunge.
Written by: Communicator StaffJanuary 31, 2017

Fort Wayne’s 16th annual Polar Plunge will be held at Metea County Park on Feb. 11.

Registration opens at 10 a.m. followed people jumping into Metea County Park’s 1.5 acre lake at noon.

The event will benefit the Indiana special olympics. Participants are required to raise a minimum of $75 in support pledges to benefit Special Olympics.

“I support Special Olympics because I have found that I always get back more than I put in,” said Kevin Jehl, who has participated in both Special Olympics and the plunge for the past ten years. “Special Olympics athletes are the most joyful and appreciative people you could meet. Their smiles and excitement are the reward for the effort.”

Many IPFW students have taken the plunge as well.

One of those students, Alyssa Kurtz, has participated in the Polar Plunge for the last three years. Kurtz has been a part of a team that has raised funds, dressed in costume and taken the plunge together. She said she likes to participate with her friends outside of school because it is exciting and gives back to a good cause.

However, according to Jehl, the water is extremely cold and the event is not for everyone.

“When I jumped I knew from the moment that feet hit the water I didn’t want to be in the water any longer,” Kurtz said. “I had to try and move my legs with all my being just to climb up the ladder to get out of the water.”

Regardless of the cold, each year hundreds of participants come out to support the cause and take the plunge.

Special Olympics’ Senior Director of Development Scott Furnish said the event was piloted at a Special Olympics conference in the ‘90s.

Special Olympics had many fundraisers around the nation at the time, and found this one to be the most unique and successful, Furnish said.

Now the event has spread to numerous states and is the primary national fundraiser for the organization.

“It is similar to getting ready to run a distance race,” Furnish said. “Before the event, there is excitement, nervous energy and adrenaline.”

The main difference he said is that the plunge does not last nearly as long as a distance run.

Furnish said the water temperature is between 30-35 degrees and is typically warmer than the outside air temperature.

“It’s the initial shock,” Furnish said. “It’s exhilarating and gets your body going.”

An After Splash Bash will feature warming stations, hot meals, awards, door prizes and recognition of sponsors.

Even those who are not able to plunge still have the opportunity to participate and be a part of the festivities by signing up for a virtual plunger program.