Benton police ready for Polar Plunge 2013

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published January 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 10, 2013 at 6:28 p.m.
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After making the Polar Plunge last year, chilly swimmers return to shore. This year, the volunteers, who gathered pledges to support Special Olympics Arkansas, will jump into the pool of the Hurricane Lake Estates clubhouse for the 2013 Polar Plunge.

— Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane said he will just remember the reason he is freezing when he plunges into winter-chilled water Saturday at Hurricane Lake Estates.

“It helps Special Olympics Arkansas in their efforts,” Lane said. “If you have ever been to the games with Special Olympians and see the joy on their faces when they compete, it is something you will always remember.”

For the past three Januarys, teams have signed up to jump into cold water after collecting pledges from supporters, or at least from those who wanted to see their friends and co-workers shiver.

The event not only helps raise funds but is an effort to raise public awareness of Special Olympics.

“The money raised provides sports training and the competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” said Shelly Yielding, director of sports, training and competitions with Special Olympics Arkansas. “The Saline County Polar Plunge is one of 21 we have throughout the state. It is a huge event for us.”

Lt. Kevin Russell of the Benton Police Department said Polar Plunge 2013 will be held at the Hurricane Lake Estates Clubhouse pool, rather than at Hurricane Lake.

“There is construction at the lake, but the property owners association was gracious to offer us the pool this year,” Russell said. “But with it being a smaller water area, it could be colder, especially if the long-range forecast is right and it is around 17 degrees Friday night before the plunge the next morning.”

Russell said registrations are on track to have more teams taking the frozen dip than in the past two years.

Last year, more than 65 people hit the cold waters of the lake, and the event raised more than $13,000. This year, the pledges already have exceeded $12,000 with a week left before the event, according to Special Olympics Arkansas.

“We are still encouraging people to take part as an individual or to support some of the other teams taking part,” he said. “We invite people to come from all over Saline County. This is not just a Benton and Bryant event.”

Among the new teams participating will be one from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Councils in Saline County, Russell said. Mayor’s youth councils have been formed in Benton, Bryant and Haskell.

“Advisory council members have helped with the event since it began, but this is the first year they are expected to have a team,” he said.

Beyond all the fun of total immersion in numbingly cold water, team members at the event have fun with special costumes and choreographed movements. Last year, a group of participants made up of members of the Bryant Public Schools and Special Olympians, dressed as zombies and did the dance from the video of Michael Jackson’s hit “Thriller” before hitting the water.

Russell said awards will be given for the top fundraiser, the most spirited team and other categories for both adult and school divisions.

“Local businesses in the county come out to support the event and help put it on,” he said.

The Polar Plunge has been a favorite for law enforcement officers in Arkansas. It is part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run event that raises funds all year, with the help of more than 100 law enforcement agencies and 1,500 officers around the state.

“We used to take part in Hot Springs, but we got enough supporters that we started our own event in Saline County,” Russell said.

Members of each team jump into the water together. Russell said the peer pressure of the team makes it easier to jump into the frigid water.

“I’m not sure I would do it alone,” he said.

For more information, visit www.specialolympicsarkansas.org.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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