Polar Bear Plunge moves to State Gym due to ice


Photo: Suit Yee/Iowa State Daily

The greek community conducts a fundraising event, Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics, on Saturday, April 6, 2013. Fraternity and sorority members took turns hopping into Lake LaVerne while wearing creative attire that went along with themes that represented their own houses. The greek community successfully raised about $133,000, which is $40,000 more than last year.

Every year, members of the greek community dive into icy Lake LaVerne as part of the Greek Week Polar Bear Plunge event to support the Special Olympics. 

Breaking the usual tradition, the 18th Polar Bear Plunge has been moved to the State Gym pool this year. It will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. March 28.

“Basically what happened is we went to look at Lake LaVerne to get it ready for the plunge,” said Maggie Gehrls, general co-chairwoman of Greek Week and senior in interior design.

After the Story County swimming and diving team inspected the lake, the decision was made that the low water temperatures would pose as a safety issue for the rescue team who must stay in the water the entire three hours while participants take the plunge.

“The swimming and diving team didn’t feel the lake was safe for jumping into and said that it would be too cold for their divers to be in for that long,” Gehrls said.

The ice was initially broken for the plunge, but the weather has caused the water to refreeze, forcing the event to move. 

“We made the executive decision to move it inside, just because we didn’t have all the right resources on such short notice,” Gehrls said. “We were obviously expecting [Lake LaVerne] to be thawed out.”

The Polar Bear Plunge is Greek Week’s premier philanthropic event. Gehrls said she and the other general co-chairman of Greek Week, Brent Sexton, are both very eager for the event despite the location change.

“I’m excited to see everyone participate and [have] fun,” Sexton, senior in animal science, said.

Sexton also said the event is still supporting a great cause. It’ll be different, but he feels it won’t change the overall event.

Both Gehrls and Sexton are happy to help raise money for Special Olympics Iowa.

“Special Olympics Iowa is such a great cause, and we love seeing the athletes come out and how happy it makes them,” Gehrls said.

Last year, the event raised $131,000, and the goal for this year is $142,000. They are $10,000 away and believe that they will reach their goal by March 29.

Gerhls is hopeful that students will still turn out in the same capacity, even if the event isn’t the traditional plunge into Lake LaVerne. 

“We’re kind of going to make it a little bit ironic. It’s 90 degrees in State Gym, so we’re kind of sweating for a reason,” Gehrls said.

Gerhls said the warmer temperatures might increase participation as she thought some people might be nervous about such cold temperatures.

Makenzie Haskin, sophomore in elementary education and member of Delta Delta Delta, was originally worried about the cold water’s effect on her lip sync group for Greek Week.

“I’m not too upset about [the location change to State Gym] because all of our lip syncers won’t be sick for second cuts the next day,” Haskin said.

Some students are disappointed about the location change, though.

“I’m kind of upset because I won’t get the experience of jumping into the lake,” said Tory Pfannkuch, freshman in event management and member of Kappa Delta, who would be jumping into the lake for the first time. “It’s not the same experience.”

Pfannkuch also said she thought some people might be upset because they donated money to see people jump into the lake, and jumping into a pool is just not the same.

Other participants are happy the event is still going on in the first place.

“I’m glad the greek community is still doing it,” said Katie Henry, senior in journalism and mass communication and member of Kappa Delta. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it will be different, but I still expect it to be a lot of fun.”

Gehrls also said a DJ was hired for the event, and T-shirts and prizes will be handed out.

Registration continues through March 28 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. The Polar Bear Plunge is open to all college students and community members.

“It’s kind of unfortunate, but we’re going to make the best of the situation for a really great cause,” Gehrls said. “We still want everyone to come out and still have fun.”

Allison Dietzenbach contributed to this article.