Special Olympics' Polar Plunge requires two key ingredients: participants willing to fund-raise and brave the icy waters for a good cause, and, of course, water.
But the latter could have proved problematic for the 2019 Davenport Polar Plunge as its traditional location — West Lake — has been drained as part of a major lake improvement project at the Scott County park.
"We've got to have water," said Special Olympics Iowa's Madison Nelson, one of the event's organizers.
This year's event will be Saturday, Oct. 26, at its new location of Buffalo Shores Park on the Mississippi River in Buffalo. All proceeds benefit the 14,000 Iowa athletes with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics serves athletes in each of Iowa's 99 counties and provides training and competitions in 23 Olympic-type sports.
Trooper Dan Loussaert of the Iowa State Patrol, another organizer, said "If you don't want to jump in, you can have a team of chickens and still raise money." This marks the Davenport event's 13th year.
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Loussaert admits he's "learned more about hypothermia" from the plunges than any other training he's taken. "We always found the first year (you plunge) is always the coldest year."
The day's festivities include the actual Plunge into the Mississippi River, as well as a post-party with food, drink, music and prizes. Awards will be given for the Best Costume, Top Individual Fundraiser, Top Online Fundraiser and Top "Chicken" Fundraiser.
Loussaert said the Iowa State Patrol will again have a team competing in the event, which draws other law enforcement, school groups, families and others all wanting to support Special Olympics. Organizers also hope to recruit more high school students to get involved and form their own teams "to help others who would not have the opportunity to participate in sport activities if not for the Iowa Special Olympics."
As an incentive, any school that has at least 25 people involved (including a minimum of 15 students, maximum of 10 school staff) will be put in a drawing for a $500 scholarship for one student. "If they bring 50, they would be eligible for two scholarships," he said.
Nelson, event coordinator for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, said the Polar Plunge now has grown to 10 Iowa locations including Warren County, Council Bluffs, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Davenport, Siouxland, Fort Dodge, Dubuque and West Des Moines. In 2018, Plungers raised nearly $350,000 for Iowa athletes, including about $18,000 from the Davenport event.