|Polar Plunge a ‘Special’ fund raiser
|Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012 10:00 pm
| By CHRIS MENEES
It was a brrr-isk day for some brrr-ave souls.
On the coldest day of the year so far, over 30 people took the plunge Saturday at Aloha Pools & Spas in Union City to raise funds for Tennessee Special Olympics.
The inaugural Union City Polar Plunge — billed as “Freezin’ for a Reason” — drew 31 “plungers” who raised nearly $9,500 by volunteering to take a quick dip into an in-ground pool’s icy waters.
The event drew a huge crowd of onlookers bundled in heavy coats, hats, gloves and scarves, a sharp contrast to the summer-like gear worn by the pool plungers and the tropical music which played in the background.
The temperature was a bone-chilling 29 degrees and the water temperature was 44 degrees at the time of the plunge shortly after noon Saturday. Emergency medical personnel stood by and two warm school buses, as well as a steaming hot tub, provided areas of relief for the chilly plungers.
The first plunger was Union City police officer Tack Simmons Jr., who stripped off an insulated jumpsuit and donned a pair of goggles before he dove off the edge of the pool in a bright red long-sleeved shirt and long pants, topped with a tank top and plaid trunks. He was followed by a string of individual plungers — several of whom wore costumes — and then a few small teams of plungers who took the dive together.
The swim gear ranged from a comical male hula dancer and a pirate to old-fashioned bathing beauties and even a trio of women in bikinis.
Best costume honors went to local Aloha co-owner Brad Cook, who wore the hula ensemble.
Almost $9,000 had been raised going into the event and an additional $450 was received afterward, bringing the total to almost $9,500, according to Area 7 Special Olympics director Mary Kay Hutchens.
John Blanton raised the most money by an individual, while a group from Dot’s Pub & Grub raised the most money by a group. The women in the Dot’s group wore thick bath robes until their turn to plunge, when they stripped down to bikinis.
The funds raised will be used to send the area’s Special Olympics competitors to state competition this year, something which hasn’t happened in several years due to a lack of funds. Area 7 includes Obion, Weakley, Lake and Henry counties.
Special Olympics pro-vides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults who have developmental or physical disabilities.
“Now we will be able to take some people to the state games. We haven’t been able to go in several years,” Ms. Hutchens said.
She said the first-ever Union City Polar Plunge exceeded her expectations.
“It went really, really well and went over our expectations for funds raised,” she said. “Everyone was so gracious.”
Ms. Hutchens said the idea for the Union City Polar Plunge started with her daughter, Alisse Kirk, assistant director for Area 7 Special Olympics. She said she and her daughter attended a plunge last year in Jackson and she explained the plunges are generally Special Olympics fundraisers.
“We visited them to see how they did it and what they did. Alisse and I decided we wanted to do it this year,” Ms. Hutchens said.
She said they approached Aloha Pools & Spas, explaining the Aloha location in Jackson and the location in Union City, as well as two others, are all owned by Brad Cook, Dennis Cook and Deb Jenkins. She found Aloha managers Brad and Cindy Cook in Union City to be very receptive and supportive.
“They were really gracious and wonderful to work with,” she said.
She said planning for next year’s event began as soon as this year’s event ended Saturday and there have already been requests for sponsorship. She said the date will soon be set for next year’s plunge and it will likely remain in February.
Ms. Hutchens added that it appeared all of the plungers had a good time and there was a spirit of camaraderie among them.
Beach Bunnies team member Sue Richardson of Hornbeak said she enjoyed participating in an event to raise funds for such a worthwhile cause.
“Special Olympics is a very good cause. That’s a little thing we can do to help,” she said. “And we had fun.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.13.12