DULUTH — Special Olympics Minnesota celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Polar Plunge with the help of 623 participants jumping into frozen Lake Superior at Park Point on Saturday. This year also marks a half-century of philanthropy for Special Olympics Minnesota.
Skies were mostly sunny with an air temperature of 38 degrees and a 6-mph breeze, according to the National Weather Service.
The Duluth event exceeded its fundraising goal of $145,000 by raising a cool $161,600 to support year-round athletic and health-based services for thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities across the state.
has raised over $2,558,554 in its 21-year history. In 2022, there were 575 plungers who raised $136,731.
The event is sponsored each year by
Law Enforcement Torch Run
as a fundraiser for Special Olympics. Members of the Duluth Police Department participated and volunteered again in the annual Duluth Polar Plunge.
This year, Duluth Police Officer Jeremy O’Connor took the plunge for the first time, but didn't go it alone. O'Connor had the company of a life-sized stuffed version of his partner, a black lab named K9 Kallie, to jump with him.
“Fundraising for the Minnesota Special Olympics means a lot to me and being a role model to the athletes is rewarding,” said O’Connor in a press release. "I have volunteered at the plunge the last five years so I am excited to give this a go."
The News Tribune caught up with O'Connor after he took the plunge in 30-degree water.
"I know the weather is nice but the water is not as cold as I thought," O'Connor said. "So $3,300 is what I raised, which is fantastic. ... I've gone to the events that athletes participated in — bowling, track and field, other events, and they just have such a great time and enjoy themselves. It's the perfect thing to fundraise money for. I'd love to do it in the future."
American country singer and former police officer from New Mexico, Frank Ray, also made an appearance at the pre-plunge party at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Canal Park prior to taking the plunge with O’Connor and Investigator Ryan Temple.
Many plungers wore costumes as they took a dip in the icy waters. Angeline Moore, of Superior, and Jeana Shykes, of Duluth, dressed as The Golden Girls. Moore took with her a fantasy football trophy that she won while playing against her boyfriend.
"So I play fantasy football with my boyfriend. I was at his house when we first got together, but they need another person so I joined. I made the playoffs and I won against him. He won against me one time last year and would not let me touch the trophy, so I’ll bring it with me obnoxiously to places,” Moore said.
Duluthian Sherman Frederick plunged with others to represent NorthStar Ford. “I’ve actually got a partner whose aunt used to participate in the Special Olympics, so it's kind of nice to help support her and her family and raise money for good cause,” Frederick said.
Dressed as a polar bear, Melisa “GG” Scott, from Denison, Texas, joined to volunteer at the Duluth Polar Plunge with a group from the Grand Marais hospital.
“Oh my goodness. Growing up in north Texas, water doesn’t freeze unless it’s in your freezer, so the first time I saw a frozen lake I couldn’t believe that it would be strong enough for a human to be on there, much less people, groups and vehicles. I had no idea. This is my first time being on the water on the frozen lake and it was amazing. I felt alive. I felt exhilarated. It was just such a cool feeling," Scott said.
The event mascot said she had a blast hugging participants and giving out high-fives. When asked if she would take the plunge next time around, Scott said, "Probably not. I’ll wear the chicken hat if I must."
This story originally misstated the amount that Duluth Police Officer Jeremy O’Connor raised — $3,300. It was updated at 12:25 p.m. Feb. 19 with the proper amount. The News Tribune regrets the error.
Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.
She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.
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