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Washingtonians Take Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Every year, hardy Washingtonians take a dive into frigid waters around the state to raise money for the Special Olympics. (Special Olympics Archive)
Every year, hardy Washingtonians take a dive into frigid waters around the state to raise money for the Special Olympics. (Special Olympics Archive)
January 20, 2017

KENNEWICK, Wash. - Some hardy Washingtonians are taking a cold and invigorating dip this winter to raise money for the Special Olympics.

In the Polar Plunge Series, people get charitable pledges to dive into freezing waters across the Evergreen State, starting with the Tri-Cities area on Saturday. While participants take the plunge, said Dan Wartelle, vice president for communications for Special Olympics Washington, said the 14,500 athletes they are raising money for are hitting the gym.

"It's a good match," he said. "While you jump into some cold water to help athletes, the athletes are out there training and working honestly very hard to try to make it to the ultimate competition stage in the state of Washington, for Special Olympics Washington."

Plungers must raise at least $50 or $75, depending on where they dive in. There will be chances to plunge in Seattle, Spokane, Redmond and other cities through March. The state's Special Olympics Winter Games will be held in Wenatchee at the beginning of March.

Athletes often are competing in local events, but Wartelle said some of them take time out of their busy schedule to be at the plunge. He said the Polar Plunge attracts a wide range of people to come out and support the Special Olympics, because of the thrill of the event.

"That's the unique part about this event," he said. "It really expands our reach and gets people more involved with the organization and a greater understanding of the Special Olympics, just simply because they want the challenge of diving in the water."

Wartelle said law enforcement plays a big role in organizing and fundraising for the Polar Plunge Series. In Washington state, law enforcement raises nearly $700,000 annually for Special Olympics Washington.

Details on the Polar Plunge are online at specialolympicswashington.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA