Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 27, 2014

Plunge efforts keep getting bigger

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — A “special” gathering to be sure, better known as a Polar Plunge, is now only hours away for a regional event again coming to Pauls Valley.

It’s the fourth straight year for PV to host one of the many plunges held across Oklahoma — this one set for Saturday, March 1.

While the last two were centered around Wacker Park’s band shell, this year’s event to raise money for the Special Olympics of Oklahoma will move just a few yards away to PV’s new water park located next to the Reynolds Recreation Center.

Registration for the event is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, while divers are expected to start hitting the chilly water around 11 a.m.

Helping lead the way for the fundraising efforts of the plunges has for some time been law enforcement agencies all over.

Here in Pauls Valley the chief of police is among those officers throughout the region who back it in a big way.

“It’s near and dear to my heart,” Mitch McGill said.

“We’re now the biggest grassroots effort to raise money for Special Olympics,” he said, referring to law enforcement.

“In my opinion it’s one of the best things, if not the best, fundraising efforts we can do.”

Those efforts in the regional plunges hosted by PV have proven fruitful as fundraising totals have continued to be on the rise.

The first one in 2011 raised about $13,000 for the Special Olympics.

The next year the total amount raised jumped to about $31,000 before it went up to around $47,000 for the 2013 plunge here.

The last couple made the PV plunge the second highest in the state in terms of the money raised.

It’s numbers like these that attracted some attention when a few months ago McGill attended a national conference in Florida.

“They talked about Pauls Valley at this national conference,” McGill said.

“As a rural community we’re able to raise as much or more as these larger metro areas.

“We’ve done a really good job putting Pauls Valley on the map with this Polar Plunge.”

Elizabeth Sam, a local special education teacher and Special Olympics coach, has said this year’s goal is to raise in the neighborhood of $50,000 and have 150 plungers.

Both Sam and McGill stress the benefits from these Polar Plunges can clearly be seen when these “special” athletes take to the field or track for a Special Olympics event.

Here in Pauls Valley one of those area events is expected to bring in up to 400 athletes on April 2.

Later in the spring one of the largest state Special Olympics games in the country will take place in Stillwater, while the national games are slated for June.

This year’s Polar Plunge actually gets started from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28 with what’s called the Tip a Cop event at the local Riviera Maya Mexican Grill, located in the 2400 block of West Grant.

During those three hours police officers will help serve customers in exchange for tips. That money then goes to the plunge fundraising totals.

“All the tips go to help Polar Plunge,” McGill said.

“It all goes back to the athletes,” he said. “It all goes to raise money for the Special Olympics.”