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Polar Plunge Threatened by Weather, But ISU Students Still Make Fundraising Splash

AMES, Iowa  --  The weather may have cancelled many of early April's outdoor events, but surely anyone scheduled for a Polar Plunge was ready with a smile. For the first time, though, the Iowa State University event was moved indoors.

"I'm from Minnesota, so we jump in lakes when it is like this. It is a little disappointing, but it is fine. I totally understand," said Justin Babcock.

Saturday's threat of bad weather moved the event from a small above ground pool on campus to the State Gym Pool on Friday.

Stephanie Kocer, Special Olympics Iowa Marketing and Communications Manager, said, "We didn't want thousands of students standing outside waiting hours to plunge."

The 22-year event is unique because it consists of only students within the ISU Greek community during Greek Week.

"We are always so impressed with how the ISU Greek students take charge of this event," said Kocer. "They want to raise money for our athletes, they want to do this for Special Olympics."

Taylor Zeller and Justin Babcock had big plans. Their matching American flag-type speedos to prove their toughness in the cold may have backfired, but they still raised a few eyebrows.

"We were planning on going outside. We were heavily prepared to go outside, but I think we might go out on our own later," said Zeller.

For others, the cozy confines were welcomed.

Halle Heying said, "We were just talking about that, kind of glad it was not outside just because it was so cold."

It's a Polar Plunging purist's nightmare. With a DJ and heated pool, it is more like club paradise than braving than frigid temperatures outside, but the amount of money these students have raised in recent years is no laughing matter.

"Last year was our biggest year yet," said Kocer. "The students raised over $370,000, so that is a record for any of our fundraisers."

No other Special Olympics fundraiser in Iowa generates more money in one day for the athletes than the ISU event.

"It is awesome how we step it up every year," said Zeller.

Inside or out, the cause remained the same, and so did the motivation for fundraising provided by the Special Olympic athletes.

Heying said, "I think they really push us, too, because we see them so excited. We get eager to raise more money because it is for such a great cause."

The last update from Special Olympics Iowa released around noon said the group had already raised $250,000.