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Freezin’ for a reason

At the Fifth Annual Polar Plunge, zombies, monsters and chickens are

November 5, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

There was no ice and snow Sunday afternoon, but the 42-degree water ensured that the eight teams worth of participants at the fifth annual Polar Plunge didn't get off too easy.

The plunge is held in Badger Lake at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, and raises money for the Special Olympics.

"It's all given to Special Olympics Iowa, to send athletes to the state games," said Lindsay Eastin, the SOI worker in charge of the event.

Article Photos

Members of the Corrections Chicken Coop team charge into the water at the Fifth Annual Polar Plunge at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. Participants had to run through the 42-degree water and slap hands with orange-suited rescue people standing chest-deep in the lake.

As in other years, the plungers came with colorful costumes, including zombies and "Sesame Street" monsters. They had to run into the cold waters of the lake until the water was about chest-high, where they slapped hands with rescue workers waiting there before running back to the shore and into the warmup tent set up on the beach.

After changing out of wet clothing, participants headed up the hill to the Bob Heun Shelter House for a lunch of pizza, chili, hot wings and desserts donated for the event by local businesses.

Not everyone on the teams went into the water, though. Teams also included "chickens," like Jean Helmers of the Fort Dodge Community Corrections Center.

"You still have to raise the same amount of money, but you stay on the bank," Helmers said.

Eastin said, "The minimum for them to raise is $75 a person, but a lot raise beyond that."

This year, the more than 50 plungers and chickens raised in excess of $7,000 -nearly twice as much as $75 per person.

Helmers' team, the Corrections Chicken Coop, took the name "chickens" literally, dressing the whole team in chicken feet and crests.

"Our chickens had to wear yellow," she said. "The roosters - that's what we call the ones who went in - got to wear bright colors."

The Center has sent a team every year, Helmers said, even one year where they had to break ice to get into the water.

"I only went in the water once, and that was enough," she said.

How do you prepare yourself for the cold?

"You can't," laughed Dan Klindt. His team, the Thrillers, came dressed as zombies with fake blood and makeup.

"You just go in and get it over with," said Kayla Lara, of the Corrections Chicken Coop team.

Hanna Lara, her teammate and sister, added, "You just have to think about how it's for a good cause."

Thriller members Maddie Westrum and Nicki Klindt also gave advice.

"You try not to get too warmed up beforehand so it's not such a big shock," said Nicki Klindt.

"You wear the least amount of clothing in the water as you can," said Westrum. "That's less you have to take off afterward."

Not following that advice was Tiffany Baker, the only plunger on the Bootleggers team, who ran into the lake wearing a full body penguin suit complete with big fuzzy head.

She didn't quite make it out to the rescue workers.

"The suit gets to heavy," she said as she wrung out the pantlegs.

Baker came out because of family.

"My aunt's mentally disabled, and she goes to the Speical Olympics all the time," Baker said. "I like to help make sure she'll have something to do."

Plus, "It's the Polar Plunge, and I'm a penguin. It's fun," she said.

Perhaps the most comfortable clothing was worn by the three rescue workers from Central Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue, who stood in the lake wearing bright orange wetsuits that made them almost immune to the cold.

It was still nice to come out into the warm air, said Roger Ritter.

"We could feel more coldness today than yesterday," Ritter said. The team was at a polar plunge yesterday at Big Creek State Park north of Des Moines. Ritter said he's been out to Kennedy every year for the event.



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