Freezin’ for a reason | ParkRecord.com

Freezin’ for a reason

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

With the slogan "freezen for a reason" as their creed, costume-clad plungers will brave icy waters across the state and at Heber Valley’s Homestead Resort for the Utah Special Olympics this morning.

Beginning at 10 a.m., for a $20 donation, the public is invited to take a dip in the Homestead Resort’s pool for the Fourth Annual Polar Plunge. Each plunger will have a chance to compete in a costume contest and receive prizes and a T-shirt.

"The worst part’s coming out," says Wendy McKnight, secretary for the Heber City Police Department. "Last year the water was about 38 degrees, but the air’s cooler. It takes your breath away."

The event is hosted by the Heber State Police Department as part of its fundraising for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a month-long relay throughout the state during the month of May that raises money for Special Olympians. Along with Utah, Torch Run is a world-wide grass-roots fundraising effort by police officers that takes place in 35 nations.

McKnight, who has participated in the Polar Plunge every year and has helped to organize the Torch Run for 10 years. Last year, she reports, the plunge raised $1,200 for athletes’ food, training and equipment.

Heber has a team of Special Olympians called the Tasmanian Devils who compete in everything from snowshoeing to bowling. McKnight estimates each year there are close to 25 athletes that participate from the valley.

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"Let me tell you what, these athletes are competitive and it doesn’t matter if you take fourth or if you take first, they all high-five each other," she says. "They’re good sportsmen."

This year, Knight was invited to join the Special Olympics Executive Committee, she says, and will be helping to run games throughout the state.

Along with the Homestead Resort, there will be plunges at Antelope Island and Pleasant Grove.

A plunge on Jan. 19 at Hyrum State Park Dam raised $12,000, according to Lyn Rees, Utah Special Olympics director of development, supporting the organization’s mission to change perceptions about people with disabilities.

"We like to get the word out that our athletes hold jobs," she says. "They are very able-bodied people."

2008 marks the 40th anniversary for the state’s Special Olympics, which supports 20 sports and more than 2,000 athletes across the state. In Park City, the National Ability Center helps to host the Games’ equestrian and ski competitions. The organization is already planning its spring Games in Salt Lake City. On March 28, the Utah Special Olympians will compete in bowling and volleyball.

Box:

Take the Polar Plunge

What: The Fourth Annual Polar Plunge, a benefit for the Utah Special Olympics

When: Today, Saturday, Feb. 16 beginning at 10 a.m.

Where: At Pleasant Grove, Antelope Island and the Homestead Resort at 7000 North Homestead Drive in Midway, Utah

How much: $20

For more information, visit sout.org or call (801) 363-1111.

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