In the past, the Polar Bear Plunge at Iowa State has always been for greek students during Greek Week. However, this year it is open to the entire Ames community after becoming partners with Special Olympics.

During the Polar Bear Plunge, participants run or walk into Lake Laverne while a team of divers await them. Each person has to reach the line of divers in order for their plunge to count.

Cory Weaver, senior in journalism and mass communication, is interning with Special Olympics and helping coordinate the event.

“Years past, the Polar Bear Plunge has been just for Greek Week to help raise and donate money for Special Olympics,” Weaver said. “A few of the people at Special Olympics were kind of hesitant at first; I think they were a little bit nervous and didn’t want to step on the greeks’ toes.”

Weaver brought up the idea of a Polar Bear Plunge open to Ames residents after he heard about the event from his greek friends.

Abby Fellingham, director of grants management and special events, as well as coordinator of the Polar Bear Plunge event, liked the idea. “I thought it would be fun to open it up to everyone in the Ames community,” Fellingham said.

Ames community participants will begin the Polar Bear Plunge at 1 p.m. with Special Olympics athlete Sara Cummings as their guest speaker. The greek community will begin their plunge at 5:30 p.m. with Special Olympics athlete Kim Lively as their guest speaker.

“The athletes who come and speak like to show how much they appreciate all the donations that allow them to do the competitions they do throughout the year,” Weaver said.

Fellingham said there is no alarming reason for the separation between the Ames community and the greek community for plunges.

“Simply because of time and logistics, we are having them go at separate times,” Fellingham said. So far, there are 20, non-greek participants signed up for the event.

“I am kind of disappointed in the lack of non-greek participants; it might take a year for everyone else to catch on to the change,” Weaver said. 

Fellingham said there are 1,700 greeks signed up.

“We are having a record-breaking year in dollars raised and participants,” Fellingham said. “Overall, the mission of Special Olympics is out there, and it is a great way to support our athletes and have a lot of fun, too.”

The money that will be donated already totals $95,000, which is $3,000 more than last year, said Weaver.

“This event directly supports 11,000 Special Olympic athletes in Iowa,” Fellingham said.

The event takes place April 6, 2013 at Lake Laverne. Participants need to donate $50 to do the plunge, and they also receive a free T-shirt.

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