CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The 13th annual Cape Girardeau Polar Plunge kicked off Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau County to help out Special Olympics.
Nearly two hundred came out to take a dip in the water while hundreds of others watched as support.
The water was a cold 39.1 degrees with an air temperature of 55 degrees.
Many teams that plunged wore costumes, which included clowns, Smurfs, a Ringmaster and more.
We talked with several plungers who raised money for the Special Olympics either individually or as a group. One group we talked with were a group of 24 who from the Delta R-5 School District which raised $5,185 dollars for this cause.
John Weber, a teacher at Delta R-5, said this was the school's 11th year they have taken part in the plunge. He said that it's important they help out and give to the organization.
“We really care about an amazing group of athletes and if you ever go to a Special Olympics tournament, of any kind, you will be aware of how much those kids and adults appreciate us being there and love all the help and support that we give them. And so we can’t help but wanting to give that love and support back,” Weber explained.
Several of Weber's students echoed his response in why they felt it was necessary to help out.
"I like raising money for this cause because I like giving people who don't have the same opportunities as me," Kendall Holweg said. "It's a chance to do what they love. It just warms my heart."
“I know a lot of Special Olympians and they are really close to my heart,” Noah Hudson added. “I love them and I love this organization.”
The large group had several events and other individual efforts to raise the $5,185. One student said she was grateful so many people were willing to donate to this cause, but also feels it's great to see the money go towards something they can witness as well.
"Most organizations, like on TV, you send money but you don't actually see how it helps," Delta R-5 student Andrea Slinkard said. "With this, you can actually go to these field events and you can see how it helps everybody."
The Delta students decided to take the plunge dressed as Smurfs this year.
“We came up with the Smurfs. We just thought of something because we didn’t want to go with the Polar Bear Plunge theme because we wanted to be original,” Slinkard explained. “Also, blue and white are our school so it kind of worked.”
Matt Featherston was a member with Sam's Club group. He said it's great to see so many people that continue to help out the organization but also new people that help out and plunge every year as well.
"It's a big deal. Representing the cause is a huge deal," Featherston said. "You see a lot of young kids. This is my ninth year doing the plunge and it's awesome to see new faces every single year."
We also spoke with the youngest plunger of the day. Preston Clark dressed as a Ringmaster from The Greatest Showman. He wanted to plunge in the water and show his support.
According to the Polar Plunge rules, participants must be at least 10 years old and raise a minimum of $75 by the day of the event.
He recently was riding with his parents when he saw a sign for the plunge and instantly wanted to be a part of it. At that point, Preston was 9 years of age.
"We were in the car and then there was this billboard that showed the plunge. I saw it and wanted to do it but then my mom said I had to be 10," Preston recalled. "I was 9 and so I was kind of mad but then she said it was on my birthday and I was turning 10 on my birthday so I was then excited."
This year’s polar plunge raised nearly $37,000 for Special Olympics Missouri, about $3,000 short of the goal.
Top individual fundraisers included the following:
1st Place Fundraiser – John Weber ($2,268)
Top Fundraising Team – Delta High School ($5,185)
Top Law Enforcement Team – Cape Police Dept. ($1,940)
Top Fundraising College Team – Kappa Beta Gamma ($460)
Competition for the Golden Plunger was steep this year. Participants are encouraged to come in costume and compete for the chance to take home the “golden plunger.”
Group 1st Place – Sam’s Club - Circus
Group 2nd Place – Lisa’s Ice Warriors – Circus Clowns
Group 3rd Place – Alliance Bankette – Trapeze Artists
School 1st Place – Delta Bobcats
School 2nd Place – Chaffee Ninja Warriors
School 3rd Place – Fredericktown StuCo
Individual 1st Place – Logan Gardner – Class Clown
Individual 2nd Place – Preston Clark – Ring Master; Tim Kunz - Clown
For more information on the event or to donate for the Special Olympics, you can find that on their website here.