The City of Auburn Parks and Recreation Department will hold its eighth annual Polar Plunge to benefit the Lee County Special Olympics on Saturday, Feb. 1.
The event begins with a costume contest, which many participants dress up for before jumping in the water. Members of the community then judge the costume contest. Following the contest, the attendees step outside to get their body temperatures acclimated to the cold, then “The Plunge” takes place when each participant jumps into the pool.
Ryan Molt, the founder and coordinator of Polar Plunge, began the event eight years ago in his backyard pool and raised $4,000 among 15 of his friends that first year.
The idea for the Polar Plunge came from a coworker of Molt’s, who posed the idea since events like these are common to raise money for Special Olympics programs, Molt said.
“After the first Polar Plunge we began to think maybe this could turn into something bigger to raise more money for the Lee County Special Olympics,” Molt said.
The event has since moved to the Samford Pool, located behind the East Samford School, and has grown since the first year.
“This is probably one of the shortest events you’ll ever go to — lasts 15 minutes once we get going,” Molt said. “People don’t really want to hang around when it’s February and they had just jumped in the water.”
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The money raised through the event benefits the Special Olympics athletes by keeping costs down for the parents of the participants.
This ensures that all they have to worry about is how much fun the participants have, Molt said.
The ages of “Plungers” range from 8 years old to 70 years old. Most contestants’ ages range from 16 to 35 years old.
“I want [Lee County] to see a well-run event and people having fun, as well as raising awareness for our programs that we have for special-needs athletes,” Molt said.
Although the majority of attendees come from Auburn and Opelika, this event benefits Special Olympics athletes throughout Lee County.
Safety is one of the top priorities for Polar Plunge, Molt said. A number of lifeguards, EMTs, firefighters and police officers are scattered throughout the event, and an ambulance is there on standby. The firefighters and police officers even help judge the costume contest.
“We’ve never had any sort of issues, but if [any] were to arise, we have plenty of emergency personnel on-site ready to go,” Molt said.
In 2019, the event raised more than $16,000 with around 70–80 participants, including Aubie, who was not afraid to jump in and join the festivities.
“We get a great response every year,” Molt said. “I suppose we had 150–200 people just watching the event, which always makes it feel a little more festive and fun for the Plungers when they have a crowd out there cheering them on.”
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