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Polar plungers go virtual for a good cause

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POLSON ­— In response to the surging spike of COVID-19 cases, Special Olympics Montana has decided to move its annual Polar Plunge fund-raising activities to an all-virtual online event for the 2021 season.

“The virtual polar plunge offers plunging participants the opportunity to show the athletes in our community that they have our support by participating at home safely with family, friends or teammates in socially-distanced plunges,” said Lindsey Campbell, five-valley outreach coordinator for Special Olympics Montana.

The annual winter dip has drawn hundreds into the frigid waters of the Mission Valley in years past to support life-changing programs and the mission of Special Olympics, which works to provide year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The pandemic, from a safety standpoint, has made fulfilling the mission more challenging. Organizers said this year’s COVID-19 inhibited Polar Plunge could be just as fun as previous years. “There’s a lot of opportunities for people to kind of make this fun,” Campbell said.

Some of the suggested ways participants can get cold for the do-it-yourself style event include creating snow angels in a swimsuit, lounging in an ice water-filled kiddie pool, having a water balloon or squirt gun fight while wearing silly costumes, using a garden hose to splash in or using a bucket of cold water.

Campbell said: no matter how participants plunge, it will make a big splash in the lives of the athletes and volunteers.

Unfortunately, the Polar Plunge is not the only face-to-face event that has undergone virtual COVID-19 protocols. Athletes and volunteers with Special Olympics Montana have turned to virtual get-togethers and individual fitness competitions to stay connected despite being physically apart during the pandemic.

“Many of our program participants are ‘high risk’ (for COVID complication),” said Campbell. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on our already isolated population. It has been vitally important that we kept many of our programs going in a safe manner.”

“Our SOMT team has done a fantastic job in coming up with COVID-19 safe ways to keep participants involved,” said Campbell. “We were able to still have our basketball tournament and bowling, albeit strongly modified to offer socially-distanced safe in-person interaction and virtual participation, as well as offering Zoom Zumba, dance parties and leadership classes.” 

While registration for the virtual Polar Plunge event has already begun, plungers interested in participating can still register on the Special Olympic Montana website at https://www.somt.org/plunge/ through the Jan. 3 deadline. In order to participate, plungers must upload photos or a 15-60 second video of their plunge to the SOMT website. Plungers are encouraged to make their family-appropriate videos as creative and fun as possible in a COVID-safe way.

Those adults who can raise a minimum of $125 ($50 for those 17 and under) receive a free 2021 Polar Plunge T-shirt. Plungers who raise more money earn additional Polar Plunge items, including a beanie hat, tumbler, zipper hoodie and more. More information can be found at https://www.somt.org/plunge/ or by calling 406-315-4210.

 

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