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Polar Plunge Soars to New Heights
With an increased partnership between Liberty Athletics, Liberty University and Special Olympics Virginia, the Hill City Polar Plunge blew away previous years' results, raising over $22,000 on Saturday as over 200 participants took the plunge into Hydaway Lake.
The funds raised on Saturday exceeded the total from the previous three years combined, with the event continuing to grow year after year. During the inaugural plunge in 2009, 16 participants collected $2,400. Approximately 50 people took the challenge each of the next two years, bringing in $7,500 and $12,000, respectively.
"This year's Polar Plunge event was a huge success!" commented Liberty Senior Women's Administrator, Meredith Eaker, who has been a part of the event since its inception as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's (S.A.A.C.) advisor. "When we started this event four years ago, I would not have dreamed we would have seen this much growth in such a short period of time. Our student body, student-athletes and our community have truly embraced this event as their own. Liberty Athletics is grateful to be a part of such a worthy cause, and I can't wait to see the outcome in years to come."
"The growth has been amazing," reiterated Josh Walker, Special Olympics Virginia's Director of Development. "Raising funds is important for our athletes, to be able to give them opportunities, but the community involvement is another aspect we're trying to increase," Walker stated in a reference to the organization's theme for the year, which is "building a bigger, better community."
The support from the community couldn't have been more evident throughout the day, which began at 11 a.m. and concluded with the rush into the lake at 2 p.m. The family-friendly event featured games, live musical performances, prizes and food to lead into the day's highlight.
Once again, Liberty volleyball had a large impact on the event, coming away as the afternoon's top fundraising team.
"Coach Pinder and the girls have been big supporters, not only in this event, but also with other fundraisers, clinics and hosting our athletes at sporting events," Walker noted. "They have been great ever since we opened our regional office in Lynchburg."
Team Friberg (LU Psych), another team from the Liberty community, grabbed second place in the team standings, while participants from the Liberty field hockey team had the third-most funds raised as a collection.
This year's support from Liberty Athletics programs had an increased effect due to how funds raised will be allocated. All funds coming from Liberty Athletics participants will go directly to the regional office for Special Olympics, while all other funds go to the Special Olympics Virginia.
Walker remarked that the success of the event has been due to the continued participation from Liberty student-athletes and students, especially this year with the assistance from Innovations - the student-run public relations firm at Liberty University. Walker said that the more students are involved in the planning, the more awareness and community support is increased.
Walker is looking forward to the future relationship between Special Olympics Virginia and Liberty Athletics and Liberty University as a whole.
"The students and student-athletes continue to go above and beyond in their support," Walker expressed. "I believe the partnership has grown because of common beliefs in people and helping others reach their potential. Because of that, I feel great about the future of the relationship, especially with the Hill City Polar Plunge."