By: Stephen Young, Central Missouri
It was the morning of January 28, 2017, in Annapolis, MD. The temperature had dropped to a mere 35 degrees and the water in the Chesapeake Bay is frigid. As many people were set to carry out their regular weekend activities, thousands of others had a different plan on that cold morning; a plan that involved swimsuits, the beach, and a lot of blankets. At 10:00 am, thousands of people would run into the chilling water at Sandy Point State Park for the Polar Plunge.
The Polar Plunge is an event held during the winter months where participants submerge in a body of water at frigid temperatures. In the United States, it is popular that Polar Plunges are held to raise money for a charitable cause. In Canada, Polar Plunges are done to celebrate the new year. Every year in the Netherlands, thousands gather at 89 locations on beaches and lakes to attend the “Nieuwjaarsduik,” or New Year’s dive, with a record 36,000 participants in 2012. Although the date of the very first Polar Plunge is not known, in the United States it dates as far back as 1916 and first took place in Milwaukee.
Today, cities all over the country participate in the plunge. The largest plunge in the United States is Plungapalooza in Maryland at Sandy Point State Park and raised a record of $2.2 million in 2007. This plunge is sponsored by the Maryland State Police and raises money for the Special Olympics.
With the adoption of Special Olympics as our national philanthropy, Sig Tau chapters have either began hosting or participating in a Polar Plunge each year. Every dollar raised by our chapters for the Polar Plunge is given to their respective state Special Olympics Chapter. The Epsilon Rho Chapter of Sig Tau at Salisbury University has seen recent success with their Polar Plunge.
“This year for the Polar Bear Plunge, we raised over 12,000 dollars as a chapter. We were successful in fundraising for this event due to the support of our friends and family members. I believe the reason we were successful is because of the close relationship we have with the Maryland Special Olympics Organization,” said Epsilon Rho Director of Philanthropy, Zachary Andreas, Salisbury. “All our brothers have had an opportunity to work with an athlete from Special Olympics. This has allowed brothers to make a personal connection to the organization and athletes, which helps inspire a real reason to raise the money. It is more than just raising money, because we understand what all the donations mean for these amazing athletes.”
The Epsilon Lambda Chapter executed another successful plunge from Plattsburgh State University. The group had an initial goal to raise $2,000 but exceeded that amount by raising $2,655. Among 53 teams at the Polar Plunge, the Epsilon Lambda Chapter achieved third place overall and first place out of the collegiate teams for the third year in a row.
“Our chapter helped set up the event this year. It really opened our eyes to what Special Olympics does and how Sig Tau really helps Special Olympics,” said Chapter President Jacob Merrill, Plattsburgh State. “Everyone was very grateful they could be a part of it.”
On February 11, 2017, the Chi Associate Chapter at Western Michigan University raised $2,815 at their Polar Plunge for Michigan Special Olympics. There is a fun video available on their Facebook page that shows the members taking a leap into a swimming pool filled with freezing water and a crowd of spectators enjoying the moment.
“As far as the success of our Polar Plunge goes, I owe all credit to our members. I could not be more proud of our members, as it truly was a team effort. When it comes down to it, perfect plans can be made, but without the execution and dedication of our guys, none of this would’ve been possible,” said Associate Chapter President Trevor Clausen, Western Michigan.
While we take great pride in what our chapters do, it makes it that much better when they do it for philanthropy and helps those in need. Whether it is $12,000 raised by the polar plunge or $500 raised selling t-shirts, every dollar makes a difference. We would like to thank our chapters for going above and beyond and participating in these philanthropic events to make a difference. As noble men, it is our duty to give back to the community.