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story.lead_photo.caption Divers take part in the 2018 Polar Plunge for Area 16 of Special Olympics Arkansas at the Batesville Community Center and Aquatics facility. The 2019 Polar Plunges will take place Jan. 26 at the aquatics pool and Feb. 14 at Batesville High School’s Pioneer Stadium.

BATESVILLE — Area 16 of Special Olympics Arkansas is based in Batesville, which is the only community in the state to have two Polar Plunges each year, the area director said.

One will take place Jan. 26 at the Batesville Community Center and Aquatics facility. The other will be at Batesville High School on Feb. 14. This is the fourth year for the city to have two separate plunges.

“What’s different about Area 16 is that we have one [plunge] for the community and one for the high school,” said Ebony Brown, area director for Area 16. She is also a special-education teacher at Batesville High School.

“I get the students involved, and we go out in the middle of the school day,” Brown said. “All the students attend. Different school clubs will plunge, staff will plunge, teachers will plunge, and principals will plunge.”

The school event will take place at Pioneer Stadium for the fourth year, using an inflatable pool donated by Walmart. This will be the second year the community event will be at the aquatic center. The plunge previously took place at the White River.

“The money raised for the Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics athletes,” Brown said. “That money goes to competing when they travel, uniforms, meals and equipment, so they don’t have to pay a dime when they want to go to competitions.”

Brown said that last year, the plunge at the school raised more than $3,000, with about 30 people participating. The community plunge raised around $5,000, with more than 100 people taking the plunge.

It costs $50 per person to plunge. Participants must be at least 12 years old to participate.

“They go out and raise funds,” Brown said. “We have a good community. There are a lot of competitions down Main Street in Batesville. Businesses want to see who can raise the most money. The money last year was good because we’re a small community.”

Last summer, Brown served as a softball coach for Team Arkansas in Seattle at the USA Special Olympics.

“This means a lot to me,” she said. “I got to travel to Seattle to coach softball. I didn’t have to pay a dime. Uniforms are free. Travel is free. It means a lot to the athletes. They do not have to worry about money.”

Brown said Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, was selected for the high school event for a reason.

“We thought it would be fun with costumes and to just make it a memorable day,” she said.

Brown said this is the third year she’s participated in the Polar Plunge, but it’s her second year working for Special Olympics Area 16.

“I teach self-contained classes,” she said. “One of the teachers I work with in special education asked me if I wanted to go to a camp one summer. I went, and I just got hooked from there. I am able to take my kids out of class, the athletes. It’s a lot easier that way.”

Other polar plunges in the Three Rivers Edition coverage area will take place Monday in Mountain View, Feb. 2 in Cabot, Feb. 23 in Searcy and March 2 in Horseshoe Bend.

For more information about the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, including how to make a donation and a list of events around the state, visit www.specialolympicsarkansas.org/polar-plunge.

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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