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Polar Bears plunge through depths of lunacy, emerge victorious
Polar Bears plunge through depths of lunacy, emerge victorious

A Polar Bearess and her Army bodyguards take the plunge in 39-degree water at the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge.to benefit Special Olympics.
LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. (March 4, 2009) — “Think warm thoughts.” That comment would have gotten you pelted in the head with a snowball Saturday at the Polar Bear Plunge.

It was cold, wet. The kind of cold that makes one wish he was wearing two pair of socks. Snow blew in swirls as a hot bikini-clad Polar Bearess, Snow White and the Dwarves, Smurfs, Three Blind Mice, Pirate Babes, The Adams Family, and all styles of plungers braved air temperatues of 35 degrees and water temperatures of 39 degrees to raise money for Special Olympics.

Getting there was half the fun as minivans fishtailed up snow-covered hills and cars hit ditches to and from Lake of the Ozarks State Park. But for an event this big and a cause this worthy, some collateral losses are acceptable.

The festivities began just after 2 p.m. as plungers lined as far as the eye could see to parade across the PB2 bridge with full animation and various levels of inebriation. Even the most ardent non-drinker could agree a flask of fake confidence had a place at this year's event.

Several plungers muttered, “I can’t believe you guys talked me into this,” as they stood on the beach staring at the icy fate before them.

3-2-1 Plunge...

They ran into the drink with glee until water hit the vitals; they stopped in shock, faces red-purple, mouths agape. The Polar Bear veterans turned to the crowd, saluted, and fell backwards completely submerging their brains to frigid doom — at least what they had left. Nearly everyone emerged and ran for shore with huge smiles, laughing at themselves and one another.

The real heroes were the Super Plungers, easily distinguished by the “SB” blanket-capes they donned. The distinguished group of maybe a dozen began their adventure 24 hours earlier, plunging every hour on the hour. By their last plunge, they were noticeably weakened. In emerging from the water they shot looks to one another like a band of brothers, having lived through an experience no right-minded person would volunteer to endure. To this group goes the Platinum Plunger — if there were such a thing.

As for the awards to the top three costumed plungers — who cares? The Polar Bear Plunge, much like Special Olympics, is not about winning. It's about showing up and giving it all.

At the end of the day, the lunacy of the Polar Bears of Lake of the Ozarks is likely to have raised over $100,000 for Special Olympics.

According to a Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau press release, last year’s event drew a record-breaking 500-plus “plungers” who raised more than $150,000. In its 14-year history, more than 8,500 Missourians have “taken the plunge” and helped to raise more than $1.8 million for Special Olympics Missouri. “Based on our pre-registration numbers already, we expect to be up to 600 at the Plunge alone and our goal is to raise at least $166,000,” said Susan Stegeman, Chief Development Officer for Special Olympics Missouri.

The Lake-area Plunge is one of 12 that will occur this year throughout Missouri, according to the press release, and is held in conjunction with the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Proceeds go to support year-round sports training and athletic competition for the 15,000-plus children and adults with mental disabilities who participate in 19 Olympic-style sports events offered year-round by Special Olympics Missouri. Supporters of the Polar Bear Plunge include numerous state and lake-area organizations, as well as the United States Marine Corps.

J.B. Simpson is the publisher of LakeExpo.com, an internet news site covering the Lake of the Ozarks area. LakeExpo.com has a news-share agreement with the Pulaski County Daily News for coverage of topics of mutual interest to both communities.

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