They came in red, white and blue tutus and in penguin onesies. Some came solo, while others came in big groups. Some were new, while others were veterans.
No matter what they wore, who they were with or how many times they’ve attended the event, the participants of the 2022 Polar Plunge all came for one reason: to support Special Olympics Colorado and the organization’s athletes.
The 2022 Polar Plunge kicked off 9 a.m. Saturday at Boardwalk Park with the first ever 5K run/walk and followed by the annual plunging into the chilly water at Windsor Lake.
Individuals, groups, businesses, organizations and others came from Fort Collins, Loveland, Johnstown, Greeley, Eaton and other areas around Weld and Larimer counties to help raise money for the nonprofit.
Officers and staff from Windsor Police Department stood waiting for their turn, evaluating others’ plunging tactics and strategies.
“I don’t know, I’m trying to watch other people. But I know I want to get in and out, so I’m not freezing,” first-time plunger Skylar Willis with the Windsor Police Department said, laughing. “I think this is a fabulous event put on by the Special Olympics. It’s a great event to be put out. I volunteered to do it. I wanted to do it.”
Plungers with the Oasis Pediatric Therapy, dressed as penguins, patiently waited their turn to waddle into the frigid water for the event. The group raised $2,500.
“This is our second year at Windsor, but we were at Boulder last year,” said Nathan Weber, marketing director for the therapy organization. “We are plunging for our families, the families that we serve and in support of Special Olympics in Colorado.
Kathy Larson, 72, has seen a lot of different costumes, themes and plunging tactics over her career as a plunger, including a group of women in wedding dresses as well as plungers having to swim out to the middle of the lake, touch a buoy and swim back.
“One year, someone told me to put Vaseline on my body to help insulate it. It didn’t work. All it did was make the sand stick to my body even worse,” Larsen said. “This water is so cold, but this is so awesome. It’s such a good cause.”
George Gray of Pirate Radio 104.7 emceed the event, announcing plungers, rattling off the amount of money they raised for the nonprofit and giving them the signal to “run and plunge.”
Money raised for the event ranged from $75 for individual plungers up to a whopping $7,300 brought in by the Colorado State University SoCo program and many different, yet much appreciated, amounts in between.
Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner and his fiancée, Whitney Clampitt, were among the day’s participants. Walking out of the water, the massive Risner stopped to take photos with fans, chat with Special Olympics athletes and shake hands with other plungers.
Risner said he has been part of Special Olympics programs and fundraisers since he was in college.
“I feel like it honestly changed my life. I look at the athletes and intellectual disabilities that they have and instead of looking at it as a disability, it’s an ability,” he said. “I think that I should strive to be more like these athletes every day. I should strive to have the kindness and compassion that they do. I should strive to have the energy and honesty that they do.
“In a nutshell, being around these Special Olympic athletes, they push me to be a better person, and that’s why I want to be a part of it.”
After the event, attendees were welcomed to head over to Peculier Ales, 301 Main St., Unit A, for a pint of the brewery’s special Polar Plunge Doppelbock. The brewery pledged to donate $1 for every pint sold.
If you missed Saturday’s plunge, you still have two chances to get a chill thrill on April 23 in Colorado Springs and on Oct. 29 in Avon. Those not wanting to leave the warmth and comfort of their couch can participate in the nonprofit’s virtual plunge until April 23.
For more information, volunteer opportunities or to make a donation, go to www.specialolympicsco.org.