Story by Jess Allen
Photos by Christian Hathaway
HYRUM—Shrieks and cheers fill the chill air above Hyrum Reservoir as another head bobs to the frigid surface of a square of near-freezing open water cut in the ice.
After volunteers clear the icy water of shoes, clothing, lost props and polar plungers too frozen to get out on their own, the judges’ attention turns to the next contestant, wearing nothing but shorts, goosebumps and sandals.
These crazies were “Freezin’ for a reason” Saturday as part of the fifth annual Polar Plunge, a national fundraiser for the Special Olympics, said Lyn Rees, development director of Special Olympics of Utah.
With the water registering 38 degrees, plungers turned over their donations to event organizers, and lined up at Hyrum State Park to sample the thrill of freezin’ for themselves.
More than 200 people, some in parkas but more than 160 preregistered plungers aged 6 to over 60 in skimpier outfits, milled around the hole cut in the ice on the reservoir before the event.
“I’ve been told that it hurts for 30 seconds and then the adrenaline kicks in,” plunger Stephanie Hamblin said as she posed for photos.
Standing next to Hamblin in a bright pink tutu and crown was Natalie Dallinga. She’d heard about the Plunge by word of mouth, and this was her first year.
“We dressed up as Popsicle Princesses,” Dallinga said, introducing her sister Taylor and friend Camie Lanning, similarly dressed and holding their wands close as they shivered. The air was considerably colder than the water temperature.
After their leap into the icy water, the Popsicle princesses were psyched. “It was awesome,” Natalie Dallinga said after changing out of her soggy, freezing tutu, “not half as cold as I thought. Your toes get the coldest, believe it or not.”
Taylor Dallinga said, “My first thoughts were, ‘I’m not going anywhere! I’m not moving!’” But when she heard people jump in behind her, she had to hurry to get out.
Bryn Devrives said she and her dad and sister had taken the plunge two years ago. This year, her cousins Tyler Scriver and Kelsee Vansickle joined them.
“My feet are as solid as rock right now too,” first-year plunger Scriver said, wearing nothing but shorts and goose pimples, standing on his shirt to keep his bare feet off the ice.
“But it’s for a good cause,” Devrives said, and Scriver shuddered in agreement, hugging himself.
Not everyone dressed up in costumes, but those who did were out to win the prize for best-dressed, as four judges sat at the side of the rectangular pool cut into the ice.
Kim Cheshire and his 32-year-old son Kam were part of the judging team. Their involvement is personal, as Kam is an athlete who has competed in the Utah Special Olympics since he was 8. He said Kam has won 167 medals and has been inducted into the Special Olympics Hall of Fame.
Kam competes in different sports at the Special Olympics every year—volleyball, weight lifting, track and field, skiing, bowling, cycling, and basketball. He said he really enjoys being one of the Polar Plunge judges each year.
He doesn’t compete in the Plunge, he said, but the judges do get splashed by the plungers, and they all end up wet.
“Yeah,” he grinned, “very wet.”