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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Julian ­Sollenskog lays himself out for a belly flop into a temporary pool outside the IPFW student housing clubhouse on Saturday for the inaugural Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics.

Saturday, February 13, 2016 10:03 pm

Plungers freezin' for Special Olympics

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Their event T-shirts read "Freezin’ for a Reason." But Saturday, as the temperature hovered in single digits, survivors of a plunge into icy water at IPFW were mostly just freezin’. 

"It was cold. Very cold. Colder than I expected," said Augie Farwig, 21, drying off inside IPFW’s student housing clubhouse after about 20 people lined up for a quick belly flop into an icy backyard pool in the facility’s parking lot.

"It was snowing last year. But I think it was colder this year."

"Yeah," added Heather Eracleous, northeast regional manager for Special Olympics Indiana, the event’s beneficiary, "there were a lot of shocked faces when they came up."

Harwig, a senior communications major from Elkhart, said 14 of the participants were members of his Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity at  Ball State University.

He said they traveled to IPFW by bus to continue the frat’s tradition of participating in the annual plunges because Special Olympics is Phi Sigma Kappa’s national charity.

In previous years, a plunge took place on the Ball State campus, but that didn’t happen this year, he said. But when Special Olympics agreed to transport fraternity members by bus to Fort Wayne if they raised $3,500, they rose to the occasion.

A couple of frat members, including Dakota Lopez, 20, a junior chemistry and pre-dental major from Momence, Illinois, even hung around outside a popular Mexican restaurant asking patrons to donate.

"We raised like $140 in two days," said Lopez, who won the event’s award for bringing in the most money as an individual, $600. 

Another frat member, freshman Alex Wiler, 18, of Lowell, won a big chocolate bar for the best costume – a German-inspired outfit complete with lederhosen.

Total contributions were about $3,800, Eracleous said.

For those who’d like to try their own cold-worthiness, another plunge is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Metea County Park, 8401 Union Chapel Road, Eracleous said. The Meta event, she added,  will have open-water plunge.

Participants must raise $75 for a plunge and a T-shirt, except for students who need to raise $50, Eracleous said. The plunge is open to anyone age 12 and older, but participants must sign a waiver of liability; anyone under 18 needs to have a parent or guardian sign. More  information is at http://soindiana.org/polar-plunge/.

Although several Ball State students said they’d plunge again for the cause, they agreed once a year was enough.

"We came. We plunged," said Dustin Tackett, 20, a sophomore business administration major. "We conquered."  

rsalter@jg.net