Students braved freezing temperatures to raise support for the Hill City Polar Plunge Festival, which was held at Camp Hydaway on Saturday, Feb. 26.
The festival included a battle of the bands, an appearance by Humble Tip, a costume contest and food provided by Liberty Dining from 10 a.m. until the plunge at 2 p.m. This year surpassed the previous years in numbers of plungers as well as money raised, according to Josh Walker, director of Special Olympics in the Piedmont region. More than $12,000 was raised compared to the $8,000 the year before.
“Today we’re going to run into a freezing cold body of water, and you might have gotten those looks from people — I know I did,” Walker told the crowd before the plunge. “Our athletes get those looks sometimes when they tell them they play basketball or are swimmers. We tell people all the time that the more people meet our athletes, the more lives get changed. This is what it is all about. It’s about our Special Olympics athletes.”
Hannah Spear, a junior in women’s ministry, said it was her first time plunging and was a little nervous to be running into the cold water.
“It’s something new to try for a good cause,” Spear said. “In my part time job, I work with mentally challenged people. I am back-up care for people who take care of them, and I know how much it means to these individuals to be able to be a part of the Special Olympics.”
Patrick O’Hara, a sophomore biology major, also plunged for the first time. He said he felt “really stoked” and was excited to be a part of the cause.
“Last year I really wanted to do the plunge, but I found out too late to raise the funds,” O’Hara said. “As soon as I found out this year, I was totally set. I put up a notice on Facebook, asking people to donate just a dollar, and within an hour some anonymous donor had given me all the $100 I needed. I was shocked and amazed.”
The top individual fundraisers raised $893.47 followed by $351.92 in second place and third place raised $325.75. For teams, the Liberty psychology team came in third, the Liberty women’s volleyball team came in second and Liberty women’s soccer came in first with $1,168.60.
In the battle of the bands, the Paul Davidson Band won first place which included a three hour photo shoot and an appointment at a recording studio that was worth $1,500 to $2,000. Prizes provided by Panera, AT&T and CiCi’s Pizza were handed out to the winners of the fundraising contest.