Polar bears plunged again in the Ohio River in Louisville for the 15th annual Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics. Teams gathered early Saturday on a brisk, sunny morning at the docks at Tumbleweed on the Waterfront ready to take the plunge in the chilly 39-degree water. The event kicked off as teams of superheroes, flying fish, blue Smurfs and other dressed up teams paraded along the docks. Angie Fenton, along with Tumbleweed owners Mike and Matt Higgins, joined Team Tumbleweed as the first jumpers. Participants of all ages canvassed the area, some jumping up and down to keep warm, as they waited with great anticipation. Excitement from the crowd truly showed their support for Special Olympics, making it clear that no one minded ‘freezin for a reason’.
Attendees buzzed about in the Polar Village as teammates flocked to find each other. Polar Plunge merchandise was available to purchase, and shots of Jack Daniels and tequila were ‘warming’ upcoming plungers. Many teams were formed from corporate sponsorships; others were individuals or families there to jump for the cause.
Derek VanVactor, of PMR Companies, had his team of ten ready to go, raising a total of $3,500 for Special Olympics, doubling his fundraising from last time. This was VanVactor’s second Plunge, and he admits, “It’s warmer than last time. My first time, the water was frozen over.” Michele Renbarger of Team Lach, a first-time plunger, found the water temperature not too chilly. “I thought it was fun, and I would do it again.” Some teams planned on spending the entire day there and didn’t mind waiting to have a later jump time. Russell Miller, Captain of Ice Socks and King of last year’s Plunge, tailgated with his team at his RV. Miller, a veteran to eight Plunges, raised $64,000 with his team of 87 members.
Nearly 1,100 participants in groups of ten plunged from the docks, scurrying to ladders to exit the water. Hot tubs of bubbling, steamy water awaited them at the end of the walkway. Raising approximately $300,000, the dedicated efforts of so many people from all walks of life certainly made the 15th annual Louisville Polar Plunge a huge success.