Goal of fundraiser to raise $50K for Special Olympics Oregon; still time to sign up, donate, volunteer for the Medford event
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Forty degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s how warm the water will be Saturday when students from Southern Oregon University and, so far, more than 30 other teams plan to brave the cold temps on Saturday at the 15th annual Southern Oregon Polar Plunge. Proceeds from the event will benefit Special Olympics. Registration for the event opens at 9 a.m. and the plunge starts at 11 a.m. at the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford — regardless of rain, sleet, snow or sun.
Fresh off a Rogue Valley wide “snow day” (more than one in some areas), SOU is joined by several southern Oregon schools taking the brave jump. Law enforcement will also be represented at the event, with teams made up of personnel from Oregon State Police (the “OSP Copsicles”), Grants Pass Police Department, Jackson and Josephine county sheriff’s offices, and Rogue Credit Union, among others.
“We’ve raised almost $40,000,” said Kim Andresen, who has managed the event for the past six years.
Event organizers are aiming for an even $50,000 to benefit Special Olympics, their highest goal to date. The funds will provide year-around transport to training for athletes, wellness programs, uniforms, equipment, travel opportunities to attend regional and national competitions ramping back up since the end of the pandemic.
“Supporting our athletes is our No. 1 goal and this is just a fun event and a way to do it to reach out to the community,” she said.
Special Olympics athletes plunge as well, Andresen said, and are among the event’s top fundraisers.
“They come and they wear their medals and they get to meet the public and this is really an event celebrating them,” Andresen said.
The Southern Oregon Polar Plunge is one of six across the state, along with Bend, Corvallis, Portland, Eugene and Salem, Andresen said. Andresen said it’s been a record-breaking year for other plunges around the state, and anticipates the same for Southern Oregon’s annual event.
“We’re hoping to make our $50,000 and we’re well on our way,” she said.
Andresen plans to jump with members of the SOU team, two of whom she sponsored to participate. Maraval Road, a SOU steel band, and SOU’s drumline will be on hand to perform during the event. SOU’s Raider mascot is also scheduled to make an appearance.
Andresen said she personally doesn’t like being cold, but said she always has a great time.
“I plunge every year and it is for an amazing cause,” Andresen said.
“I figure, I have to put my money where my mouth is, and if I’m asking people to plunge and donate, I need to do the same.”
There are currently 25 students signed up to take the plunge and more are welcome to sign up, she said.
The university has set it up so that students wishing to take the plunge can seek a $50 sponsorship from a faculty or administrator so they can participate in the event for free.
“You know, poor college students. They don’t need to come up with the $50,” she said. “They get a sponsor and so that’s how we do that.”
SOU students can still seek a sponsor from the faculty or administration for this purpose, Andresen said, and either register online or in person.
Individuals and teams can register the day of the event starting at 9 a.m. The cost is a donation of $50 to take the plunge because it is a fundraising event.
“If anyone in the community, a church group or other group was thinking about, ‘Oh, this is something we want to do,’ and needs till the last minute to make that big decision, teams can walk on and just register right on the morning of,” Andresen said.
“You can show up at 9 a.m. on plunge day and check in,” she added. “Make sure you bring your towel and a change of clothes and plunge on plunge day.”
The forecast is looking pretty cold, she said, but she and the other teams are undeterred.
The event has happened during drizzling rain, right before a snow and hail storm, and amidst 70-degree, sunny weather.
“We’ve pretty much seen it all,” Andresen said.
“Whatever happens, we’re still doing it. It’s going to be fun.”
What’s her pitch to plunge for the uninitiated? It’s three-fold:
“Who doesn’t want to support a Special Olympics athlete, right?” she said.
“This supports one of the largest disability populations across the state and across the nation.
So No. 1, you’re doing good.”
Special Olympics supports people with intellectual disabilities. One in five families have a child or someone in their family with a disability, she said.
“No. 2, it’s crazy, it’s fun,” Andresen said. “It’s actually good for your body to get into super cold water because it speeds up your caloric burning so it’s good for the body. I say it’s good for the soul because you’re doing something for a great cause. And we say, ‘be bold, get cold,’ is kind of our tagline. We want people to step out of their comfort zone, do something crazy.”
Andresen said all of the “plunges” across the state are different, ranging from those where you can walk slowly into the water to events where you jump in.
“Here in Southern Oregon, we say it’s full commitment,” Andresen said.
“You’re not coming out dry,” she added with a laugh.
For those brave enough to take the plunge, there are treats afterwards as well. Amy’s Kitchen
will provide chili, while Great Harvest Bread will provide cornbread and power bars. Dutch Bros. Coffee will also be on hand with hot beverages, as well as Crumbl Cookies.
Andresen noted there are many ways to support the event besides taking the plunge.
“You can still donate $50 to donate to support the cause,” she said. “We like to say, ‘skip the dip, and donate.’”
The public is also welcome to come watch the event, free of charge, and cheer on participants.
“It takes some real bravery to do this,” she said.
Have what it takes to take the plunge or just want to learn more? Go online at plungeoregon.org. Click on the “Medford” event to register.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.