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Students take the plunge for Special Olympics

March 1, 2010 : Elizabeth Mayhew

Liberty Athletics Director Jeff Barber reacts to the frigid water. Barber raised just under $750 for Special Olympics Virginia.

Liberty University hosted the second annual Polar Plunge Festival on Saturday, Feb. 27, to benefit Special Olympics Virginia.

The event is one of Liberty’s largest fundraisers for an outside organization. Last year, with the help of Liberty Athletics, LU became the first college or university to host a Polar Plunge event for Special Olympics Virginia. (Similar events are held throughout the country to benefit Special Olympics.)

This year, with the help of sponsors, Ultimate LU and Liberty Athletics, the event raised $7,500 and involved more than 50 people willing to take the icy plunge into Camp Hydaway Lake — many of them LU students. Liberty Athletics Director Jeff Barber raised the largest amount among the plungers at just under $750. (Each participant, either individually or as a group, raised at least $100 to enter.)

The money raised more than tripled last year’s amount and the number of plungers more than doubled.

Josh Walker, director of the Piedmont region for Special Olympics, was pleased with the involvement of Liberty students.

“The growth is testament to the Liberty students and faculty, who have committed to making this a yearly festival for the Lynchburg community,” he said. “The students were amazing. They planned this plunge from start to finish, and they also turned it into a festival.”

This year, LU’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) helped boost attendance by adding a Battle of the Bands, which included performances by Eyes on Me!, Ripped Veil, Ivorywood, the Wright3, and Adam Wise and the 3clectic. Special Olympics athletes especially enjoyed the music; a few of them danced up front and some sat excitedly tapping their feet.

Leroy Mickens, a Special Olympics athlete and representative for the organization, acted as a judge for the Battle of the Bands, as one of his passions is music. He gave positive feedback to all of the participants and even had this to say of Christian rap group Ripped Veil: “I liked your swag.”

At the announcement of the winning band, Ripped Veil, Barber addressed the crowd. The festival then came to a close with a splash as a mass of students and community members, some costumed, entered the icy waters. The costumes were colorful and creative, with characters such as Superman and Quail-Man.

Without the support of the Liberty University community, this event would not have been possible, Walker said.

“Thank you to all the students and faculty at LU. By supporting this [event], you are supporting our Special Olympics Virginia athletes. You are giving them the opportunity to show the world the amazing things that they are capable of.”


Special Olympics Virginia, a non-profit organization, provides year-round sports training and athletic competition programs for people of all ages with intellectual disabilities. Due to the generosity of more than 20,000 volunteers, athletes pay nothing to partake in the Special Olympics program. For more information, visit www.specialolympicsva.org.