Polar Plunge supports Special Olympics

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing
Rainy, 40-degree weather tested the resolve of Polar Plungers Feb. 8, 2014, including 12 members of the Kingsley Field Fire Department and two guard members from the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron.

Both teams remained undeterred and leapt into the chilly water helping raise more than $3,000 for the local Special Olympics chapter.

Initially plans called for a plunge into Klamath Lake at the Moore Park Marina, but Staff Sgt. Gary Langdon may have discovered one reason for the change.

"I went down there this morning and there is ice about six inches to a foot thick," he said. "I don't see how we could chip through it."

And so Kingsley Firefighters not only took the plunge, but set up the tank for everyone to jump into. For good measure they set it up near a bank of snow and shoveled much of it into the water.

Langdon and Staff Sgt. Kristin Cotton raised $460 with their leap into frigid water.

Tim Van Leeuwen, Kingsley Firefighter and volunteer Special Olympics coach, spearheaded the effort to get the 173rd Firefighters involved.

"We raised $600 through this event," he said. "The guys had a blast and they are already talking about how to make next year even better."

Van Leeuwen sparked an interest in Special Olympics when his son began to compete several years ago. Since then, he and his wife both became volunteer coaches and work to raise money to help the athletes compete year round.

"Coaching Special Olympics is really neat, sometimes other sports can push the competition or foster cliques, but this has none of that," said Van Leeuwen. "We have lots of high-fives, lots of encouragement, and very little discouragement."

The plunge is in its second year and organizers Darcie Turner and Kellie Weitman plan to hold it annually. This year's event grew significantly over last which was held a local outdoor pool.

"Thanks to the Kingsley Firefighters we were able to make this a really good event," said Turner. "We hope they can help us next year and beyond." If you would like to more information on Special Olympics or the 2015 Polar Plunge, contact either Darcie Turner at (541) 591-0888 or Kellie Weitman at (541) 591-1166.