Calling all crazies for the Detroit River Dip

DETROIT—A sure cure for the winter doldrums, the Detroit Polar Plunge at Milliken State Park will involve 500 or so brave “plungers” who consentingly jump into the Detroit River – a frigid 30 degrees Fahrenheit or so – all in the name of a good cause.

The Feb. 16 event will benefit Special Olympics Michigan, which hopes to raise $200,000 at the Detroit event and more than $1 million across the state of Michigan at 28 Polar Plunge events.

Southeast Michigan residents may want to join Polar Plunges taking place at these other locations in January and February:

  • Belleville Lake in Belleville, Feb.  9
  • Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Feb. 23 (a pool on the field)
  • Pond at Brighton High School, Feb. 23
  • St. Clair Boat Harbor in St. Clair, Feb. 24

A full list of Michigan plunges can be found on the Special Olympics Michigan website. Here too, the brave and ballsy can sign up to participate in any plunge and create an online fundraising page.

Participants can raise money through a personalized online fundraising page, in person through friends and family, or on the event day via text messages. Organizers encourage each plunger to raise a minimum of $75, and many plungers raise more and qualify for incentive gifts.

But the underlying reason to participate is to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Michigan, which sends thousands of Michigan athletes with intellectual disabilities to local, regional and state competitions.

Funds raised through the Polar Plunges cover registration fees for athletes to attend tournaments and competitions and help with uniform, equipment, transportation, meal and housing costs for the athletes at the events.

According to Ashley Diersch, marketing and development director for Special Olympics Michigan, the organization depends on fundraisers like the Polar Plunges because it receives no state funding.

Special Olympics give children and adults with intellectual disabilities opportunities a chance to experience inclusion, acceptance, friendship, and athletic competition.

Detroit plungers can expect a crowd of 500 or so spectators and the same number of colorfully dressed participants. Past plunge attire has included KISS band members, a 6’ 8” male bride, Pac Man, super heroes, and others.

And the event can have a celebrity draw. Last year, meteorologist Alan Longstreet from Fox 2 News in Detroit plunged on live TV and WRIF radio disc jockey Hightower also plunged.

Pre- and post-plunge celebrations are part of the excitement. Detroit area Polar Plunge kick-off and fundraising events are taking place in Royal Oak and Ferndale, and an awards ceremony and post party will take place at the Marriot in the Renaissance Center.

But Diersch says that the anticipation around going into the water is what creates the true thrill of the event.

“A new participant can expect to feel a little nervous, a lot of excitement, and joy from supporting nearly 20,000 athletes who participate in Special Olympics Michigan programs.”

For those planning to participate and wondering how to best prepare, Diersch says that less is more in terms of what to where.

“It sounds funny to say that for an event that takes place in the winter, but from personal experience, the more layers, the more water you absorb and also the layers make it harder when trying to change into dry clothes.”



Register for a Polar Plunge or support another plunger by donating. Visit Special Olympics Michigan for details.

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