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250 brave icy Hyrum waters to take ‘Polar Plunge’ for Special Olympics

January 22nd, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Kristi Ottley
Photos by Mallory Jones

HYRUM—Cold temperatures, wind, rain and a forecast of snow didn’t deter plungers or spectators from coming out to support the annual “Polar Plunge” fundraiser for Special Olympics Utah at Hyrum Dam Friday and Saturday.

An estimated 250 men, women and children dove into the frigid waters of the reservoir. Some wore swimming suits, while others were in costume. A team made up of members of the Cache County Sheriff’s office and Smithfield Police dressed as rock stars in a variety of wigs, makeup, jeans and high heels.

Loud music, food, and drinks helped create the fun atmosphere present during the three different times participants plunged into the water. Spectators and participants alike were excited and having a good time despite the cold and wet weather. The first plunge was Friday afternoon, the second was at midnight, and the final plunge was held Saturday at noon.

“We try to create a fun, upbeat party atmosphere at the Plunge to get everyone excited,” said Bonita Hutchinson, Special Olympics Utah’s development director. “It really is a good time, supporting a good cause.”

The Polar Plunge was also sponsored and presented by local law enforcement agencies. This was the fourth year Cache County Sheriff’s Deputy Misty Garn has taken the leap for the good cause—this time as a “super plunger,” braving the freezing water three times, once with the Cache Sheriff-Smithfield Police team, and twice by herself.

“It’s all about the athletes,” Garn said. “They are the reason I do it.”

Participants could make the plunge on their own or as part of a team. Individual plungers donated $50—$25 for students—and “super plungers” jumped in three times for $300. For some, the entry fees were paid by pledges from family and friends who wanted to see them gasping in the frigid water.

Plungers and spectators also contributed to the Special Olympics by buying food and drinks.  All proceeds go to support Special Olympics Utah athletes throughout the year, helping cover athlete travel to their various events, as well as uniforms and facilities, said Garn.

“It is a different and great way to get the community involved in the cause,” she said. “The Polar Plunge in Hyrum is the number one fundraiser for Special Olympics Utah for the year.

“We all love this cause,” Garn said.

Park manager Chris Haramoto said many people were concerned about there actually being ice at this year’s Polar Plunge, after weeks of unusually warm and snowless weather in Cache Valley so far this winter. But Haramoto said the water was plenty cold enough for the human polar bears.

“We had to cut through about 10 inches of ice Friday morning to create the hole for plungers to dive into,” he said.

Jimmy Clayton and Vince Forero made the Friday afternoon and midnight plunges together with their team, “Inovar Frozen Solder Balls,” representing Inovar, Inc., an electronics and circuitry manufacturing company in west Logan. Both men made the plunge three times, earning “Super Plunger” honors. Other team members joined them in Saturday’s plunge. “Inovar Frozen Solder Balls” raised about $1,300 for the Special Olympics.

“I have become an addict,” said Clayton. “This is my fifth year doing the Plunge, and I love it.”

This was Forero’s second year. “It’s a great cause and something fun to do in the middle of winter,” he said.

While this marked the seventh year for the Polar Plunge at Hyrum Dam, it was the first year with the “Too Chicken to Plunge” option, which allowed people to contribute to the cause without actually plunging, Hutchinson said.

“We realized that there are a lot of people who want to contribute, but are not interested in jumping into freezing cold water,” she said. “So we came up with this alternative.”

The 2012 Polar Plunge at Hyrum Dam turned out to be a success despite the cold and uncooperative weather from rain and wind that moved into the valley Friday. “It was awesome, as always,” said Garn.

For those who were not able to participate in the Polar Plunge at the Dam and are interested in getting involved, there are more Polar Plunges coming up throughout Utah in Park City, Brigham City, Heber, and Saratoga Springs, with all proceeds going to Special Olympics Utah. “Anyone is welcome to join in the fun and help support the cause at any of the plunges,” said Hutchinson.

The dates and locations of the remaining plunges and additional information are available at Special Olympics Utah website.

More Breath-Taking MomentsPhotos by Mallory Jones

DRENCHED DEPUTY—Cache County Sheriff’s Deputy Misty Garn was a “super plunger,” braving the freezing water three times. (A fully clothed Hyrum Park Manager Chris Haramoto, at left, seems colder than Garn, who was already soaked.) Mallory Jones photo.

SECOND SPLASH—Jimmy Clayton watches as teammate Vince Forero rethinks his decision. Mallory Jones photo


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