Greek members take a plunge for Special Olympics

Melissa Berg

About 400 people are slated to take plunge into Lake Laverne March 31 for the Polar Bear Plunge, a philanthropic event that benefits Special Olympics.

Since Polar Bear Plunge became part of the Greek Week festivities in 1999, the event has raised between from $25,000 to $30,000 each year for Special Olympics of Iowa, said Brian Tenclinger, assistant dean of students for greek affairs.

“The ISU Greek Community has been named an official Gold Level Sponsor of Special Olympics because of our financial contributions each year,” he said.

Polar Bear Plunge dates back before 1999, after a former ISU fraternity, Sigma Nu, hosted the plunge as their philanthropy for the Special Olympics. When Sigma Nu closed in 1998, Special Olympics of Iowa approached the Office of Greek Affairs and asked if it would like to continue the event as a part of Greek Week, Tenclinger said.

“The 1999 Greek Week Central members voted to accept the offer, and since then, Polar Bear Plunge and the Special Olympics of Iowa have been a great partnership with our greek community,” he said.

Last year, local celebrity personalities jumped into the lake to show their support for the cause, including head football coach Dan McCarney, said Rich Dickinson, Greek Week community service coordinator.

The community service coordinators are still in the process of finding celebrity personalities to plunge, said Dickinson, senior in management information systems.

The university takes precautionary safety measures for the event. Before the Polar Bear Plunge event can begin, the university risk management department requires the water to be tested to make sure the water is free of harmful bacteria, Dickinson said.

“The water is also tested the day of the event to ensure that the temperature is high enough to not cause health risks,” he said.

Chris Martin, junior in political science, took the plunge two years ago.

“It was cold and the water stinks, but at least you’re raising money for special children,” he said.