Mar 3, 2009

Community plunges into icy fundraiser

by Anthony Barone

Though some would consider jumping into freezing cold water a less than ideal way to begin a morning, participants in the Polar Plunge did so with great enthusiasm. Last Saturday, Liberty students teamed up with the Special Olympics to raise money for the organization through some unusual means. The volunteers put their bodies on the line, diving and swimming through bitterly cold water for the cause.

Just a few minutes from campus at Lake Hideaway, the event enabled students to help athletes, gifted in different ways and blessed with unique circumstances, to compete in the sports they love.

“It’s really about the athletes, the genuineness and pureness of their reactions and how much they really appreciate what we do for them,” said Director of Development Brian Keenum.

He participated in a plunge on Feb. 7 at Virginia Beach.
Lake Hydaway participants showed up on a chilly 40-degree morning at 9 a.m. to register.

“It’ll be a great opportunity to support an amazing fundraiser (for) the Special Olympics,” junior Kallie Corbin said.

After a rousing speech, free shirts and thanks from the staff, the adventure unfolded as the multiple individuals lined up at the shore, ran into the freezing cold water and worked their way around the portion of the lake as quickly as they possibly could.

“As soon as you feel the needles, you’re going to get numb,” Meredith Eaker, an associate athletic director at Liberty, said.

An ambulance and emergency personnel crew was on-hand on the shore and in the water to aid any person in trouble.

After the event, smiling faces emerged from the water. Some rushed inside for warmth while others remained on site and relaxed on the shore.

The event was expected to raise at least $50 per participant with all proceeds going toward the Special Olympics.

The event brought in around $2,500, according to Special Olympic Regional Director Josh Walker. Since the Special Olympics opened its new Piedmont Region in Virginia last year, Liberty has become more involved.

“We put the office here in Lynchburg primarily because of Liberty University,” Walker said.

He expressed his gratitude for the school, Liberty Athletics and Ultimate LU for their tremendous help. This plunge was the first event in
Virginia to be teamed up with a university.

The first Polar Plunge was held 17 years ago at Virginia Beach. Since the beginning, the event has grown to include more than 3,000 attendees and had raised more than $850,000 at Virginia Beach this year.

The International Special Olympics has been in operation since it was first held in Chicago in 1968.

For more information on the Special Olympics or to donate, visit their
Web site at

Contact Anthony Barone at


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