By: Jarrod J. Irwin '13

Published on

Student jumping in Reeds Lake in the winter with people standing around the ice

A group of Aquinas students will jump into the icy waters of Reeds Lake on Saturday, February 23, joining many others from the Grand Rapids area in celebrating the annual Polar Plunge.

Perhaps the only thing more curious than the Plunge itself is that participants wear costumes as they jump into the lake. Past costumes have included Wonder Woman, Superman, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Costumes, while not required, are strongly encouraged.

Registration for the Polar Plunge will open at 11 a.m. in East Grand Rapids Middle School. The parade of costumes will process to Reeds Lake starting at 12:45 p.m., with the Plunge itself immediately afterward. Finally, an after-party will begin at 1:45 p.m.

One might wonder why perfectly reasonable people would decide to do this every year, and always in greater numbers than the year before. Devon Klomp, an Aquinas student who is helping prepare Aquinas students for the event, gave two reasons: “It raises funds for a good cause like the Special Olympics, and it is a huge adrenaline rush to jump into freezing cold water.”

Since 2008, Aquinas students have taken part in the Grand Rapids Polar Plunge at Reeds Lake to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan. Participants in the event spend weeks approaching potential sponsors, collecting pledges from those who will support the cause and this unique way of promoting it.

Special Olympics Michigan will use the money raised by this Polar Plunge, and others all over the state, to fund programs promoting leadership, health and athletic development for people with intellectual disabilities. Klomp said these initiatives serve over 19,000 Michigan athletes.

The first Polar Plunge organized by Special Olympics Michigan took place in Saginaw in 2000. The event raised almost $10,000. The event has grown exponentially since then. In 2012, they hosted 27 Polar Plunges and raised over $900,000. This winter they added one more Polar Plunge, and they are hoping to pass the million-dollar mark for the first time.

While Special Olympics Michigan has worked hard to make this season of Polar Plunges bigger and more successful than ever, one important detail has not changed: a dive team will be present to help everyone participate safely.