Again, one of the most popular and well-attended fundraisers at Lake of the Ozarks broke both its participant and proceeds goals last year.
With the annual Polar Plunge, along with additional activities Super Plunge and Polar Strut over the weekend, returning Saturday, Feb. 23 to Lake of the Ozarks Public Beach No. 2, event organizers are determined to reach its elevated goals and raise even more funds for Special Olympics Missouri.
"We had 615 regular Plungers, 148 (Polar) Strutters and nine Super Plungers last year. We also broke the record for the Lake of the Ozarks Plunge in both the number of people who plunged and the total amount raised," said Crystal Schuster, Lake of the Ozarks Polar Plunge planner. "Overall we raised just over $223,000 - a record! As for individual events, the Polar Strut raised $12,000, Super Plunge raised $26,000 and Plunge raised $185,000. Our goal for this year, overall, is $246,000."
Schuster said organizers aim to have 620 Plungers this year, with 263 signed up as of Friday and more signing up daily. With raising money for a tremendous cause, plunging into the freezing waters of Public Beach No. 2 and many awards, prizes and honors that can be earned across a variety of categories, it is apparent why more and more people participant in the Polar Plunge weekend.
According to the Polar Plunge's website, this 'unbearable' event is a unique opportunity to show bravery as individuals support local Special Olympics athletes by walking, running or crawling into the frigid winter waters. For regular Plunge participants a minimum $75 pledge is required and must be raised by Feb. 23 to participate.
There are also many different levels of participant participation that could with nice prizes, with all receiving official Plunge shirts. The $75 Polar Bears receive braggin' rights and the official Plunge shirt. The $300 "Goosebumps" level includes the Plunger receiving a warm fleece blanket or a cooler tote. The $500 "Chilly" participant level receives any item at the "Goosebumps" level or he or she can choose from an Isotonor SmarTouch gloves, warm micro-fleece pullover or Coleman cooler. The $1,000 "Frosty" level can choose between items from the "Goosebumps" or "Chilly" levels or choose between a sporty, weatherproof beacon jacket, savvy travel city corporate bag or versatile backpack. Finally, the $2,000 "Artic" participant level has his or her choice of any of the other level's prizes or chooses between a luggage bag, jacket or picnic table.
In addition, awards will be given for both individuals and teams, as well for the Polar Plunge. A top individual fundraiser award will be given to first, second and third place recipients. Additionally, team awards will be given for top law enforcement, school team and other team, all by money raised.
"This year we are really encouraging local business groups to put a team together and plunge," Schuster added. "It's a great opportunity for co-workers to get out of the office and do something fun and support a wonderful organization at the same time."
Outside of the Polar Plunge itself, participants can also dress in themes or funny outfits that allow them an additional chance to showcase their Plunge spirit during the Parade of Costumes, which will take place at between 2-2:15 p.m., following line-up for judging for costumes from 1:50-2 p.m. at Public Beach No. 2.
If plungers want to step up their participation for this event, they could become a Super Plunger, with an elevated participating pledge to participate. These brave souls plunge every hour for 24 hours starting Friday, Feb. 22 and making their last plunge into the freezing Lake waters at the beach as the first heat of the annual Polar Plunge Saturday afternoon. Following registration form noon-2 p.m. at the Beach and additional activities, the main Plunge will be held from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Following the main event, a Polar Plunge Party for all participants in all events will take place from 4-7 p.m. at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.
In addition to the Super Plunge and Polar Plunge, the Polar Strut is another activity also held on Saturday morning that both Plunge participants and others help raise money for Special Olympics Missouri annually.
According to Somo.org, this "unbearable" event is a unique opportunity to show your bravery as you support local Special Olympics athletes by walking, running or strutting in the frigid winter air. Participants must raise a minimum of $50 by event day. Similar participant levels and prizes corresponding to those levels of the Polar Plunge also are presented to Strutters.
Awards are also given in the Polar Strut to the Top Fundraiser, Top Male Runner, Top Female Runner, Tow Walker and Top Special Olympics Athlete.
The Polar Bear Strut is a project of the Law Enforcement Torch Run(R) for Special Olympics Missouri. Osage Beach Police Department is proud to host this event.
Even for those who do not want to take a plunge or run in the cold winter waters or air, they can brave the elements to support these courageous souls by watching the event. Schuster said it is simply an overall really fun event to participate in or to view from the sidelines.
"Even if it's something a person would never do themselves, it is so fun to come out and see all of the costumes, and let's face it - who doesn't love to see the face of someone when they get cold water poured over them?" she said. "Seeing people's faces as they run into the water is such great entertainment! I also think because this event takes place in February and people are starting to get those winter blues, it gives everyone a chance to get out and do something together as a family."
For Schuster, there have been many memorable moments experienced during the Annual Polar Plunge and sister activities. She said last year they lucked out with beautiful weather and felt more people seemed to hang out more because it was so nice.
"It's really fun to watch people from all different walks of life come together and act as if they've known each other forever," she said. "Something about this event brings people together and it's like one big party!"
The money raised at this event has helped allow Special Olympics Missouri to provide training opportunities and local competitions free of charge to our athletes, Schuster said.
"We love the fact that our athletes can practice weekly and come to area, district and regional events and not have to pay a dime!" she added. "We couldn't do that without the support that we receive from fundraisers like the Polar Plunge."
Overall, it is an event and experience that no one will regret or forget. Schuster said attending and participating in the Polar Plunge is not only a rewarding fundraiser but also unique, fun activity that becomes a tradition for many.
"If you are thinking about doing it - you definitely should! I've done it twice, and yes it's cold, but it's only cold for a few minutes," she said. "It's so much fun that you forget about the cold when it's over! It's something to cross of your bucket list and at the same time support the amazing SOMO athletes."
For more information on how to participate in the Polar Plunge, Super Plunge or Polar Strut, or donate to the event or Special Olympics Missouri, visit http://www.somo.org/plunge and click on "Lake of the Ozarks" to be redirected to the event's home page.