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story.lead_photo.caption Brandt McDonald goes in with a giant unicorn floaty at the Polar Plunge on Feb. 1 at the Batesville Aquatics Center. He was part of Team First Community Bank, which also won the costume contest (bank robbers) in the team division. With 14 plungers, the team tied with Citizens Bank in the Battle of the Banks. Together, participants raised more than $11,000 for Special Olympics Arkansas.

— The annual Polar Plunge, benefiting Special Olympics Arkansas, would not be possible without the community support of Searcy, said Theresa Book, the northeast Arkansas field rep for Special Olympics Arkansas.

“We have wonderful support of Special Olympics,” she said. “This is one of the largest fundraisers that we do, and it is an opportunity for the folks to take these five minutes to jump into the water.”

The Polar Plunge in Searcy is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 22 at the Days Inn outdoor pool, 3109 E. Race Ave. Plungers can register at and create a personal fundraising Web page to collect donations from family, friends and co-workers. Each participant will receive a long-sleeve T-shirt. Participants who reach additional fundraising levels will earn more incentives. There is a $50 minimum donation to take the plunge, Book said.

“Anyone is welcome to come out to plunge, including individuals, teams or businesses,” Book said. “We want them to show their community support as well.”

Book said that with the money raised, a percentage of it will stay within the community, and the other part is what is used across the state.

“When we come back to Searcy for the summer games, the proceeds that are raised will be used for those who will compete in the summer games in May,” she said.

Last year, Searcy raised $8,230, which is lower compared to years past, Book said.

“Part of that is due to the fact that we had to reschedule after the original date saw several storms in the area,” she said. “We had to reschedule for the Monday or Tuesday of the following week, and I think the change of location and day kind of messed us up a little bit last year.”

“But in years past, we have had pretty good community support.”

She said members of the Searcy Police and Fire departments, Walmart and the White County Sheriff’s Office teams are always good to come out and support the event, as well as some of the area schools.

“Harding University has a strong support base, and this year, the football team is doing a fundraiser on Saturday at the Sonic on Beebe Capps Expressway,” Book said. “They are going to be carhops, and these Sonic managers have been very gracious to take donations and tips for the Special Olympics that day.”

Book oversees nine different plunges and is the sales rep for White and Mississippi counties. She said the cities of Mountain View and Batesville have already hosted their community plunges. The Cabot Community Polar Plunge will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Cabot Aquatic Park, 1245 Bill Foster Memorial Highway. She said she has participated in plunges in the past.

“My advice for any newcomers is don’t wear a costume that would weigh you down in the water, but come out and knock this off your bucket list and enjoy it,” she said. “People have learned that shorts and T-shirts are the better way to go instead of sweatpants.

“For a newbie, this is a great way to support our athletes and our program and encourage them to keep striving to do their best.”

Book said many of the athletes do the plunge themselves, and she said for the athletes to see all the participants gives them a desire to do the best they can in their competitions.

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Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or


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