March 4, 2010

Cold feet, warm hearts: Galesburg Polar Plunge

Jumping into a lake in the middle of winter may not sound like the best idea. But last Sunday, 59 Knox students representing Alpha Sigma Alpha, Beta Theta Pi, Delta Delta Delta and Pi Beta Phi did just that at Lake Storey as part of the Polar Plunge.

“We participated because Special Olympics is our national philanthropy and a great cause,” said senior Sara Belger, the philanthropy chair for Alpha Sigma Alpha.

The Polar Plunge is an annual event held across the country to raise money for the Special Olympics. Seventeen plunges occur in Illinois through February and March. Plungers receive a sweatshirt and a free lunch in exchange for raising money and running into a lake — often times only after ice has been broken off of the surface.

“We felt that [the Polar Plunge] was for a very good cause and we wanted to help out in ways that we can,” said junior Leslie Kang, president of Pi Beta Phi. “Also, it’s a lot of fun.”

In only t-shirts and shorts (and only shorts for the Beta Theta Pi’s), staying in the water was excruciating.

“It was so cold,” said Belger. “[But] it was totally worth it.”

After getting out of the water and drying off, plungers were greeted with a surprise: an invitation to jump again. Seventeen Knox students accepted and headed back into the freezing water.

“Have you ever not been able to feel your legs?” asked first-year Brian Paul, who is a pledge to Beta Theta Pi and plunged twice. “But it was for a good cause, so it was worth it.”

This was the first time in the history of the Polar Plunge in Illinois that plungers had jumped twice. Consequently, the event raised nearly $30,000 for the Illinois Special Olympics. Although each plunger only has to raise $75 in order to jump, all organizations chose to raise more.

“We went door to door all over campus and in town,” said Paul. “We wanted to raise as much money as we could.”

Other organizations raised money through bake sales and donations from friends and family members.

Overall, Knox students raised over $9,000 for the Special Olympics.

Many students also volunteer at Special Olympics events in the spring, so they get to see firsthand what their efforts have accomplished.

“Seeing how happy the athletes are to have the opportunity to participate in the games makes every bit of time and money put in all the more worthwhile,” said senior Cory Bieber, the philanthropy chair for Delta Delta Delta. “The feelings that come from helping out a wonderful cause like Special Olympics are well worth the potential frostbite.”

Beta Theta Pi brought in the most money, with Pi Beta Phi coming in second place.

Anna Meier

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