Duck Pond houses 16th Polar Plunge


Nicole Caporaso

The 16th annual Polar Plunge will be held at the Appalachian State University’s Duck Pond on Feb. 20 to raise money for the Watauga County Special Olympics program.

Participants in the 2013 Polar Plunge braved the February cold to raise $6,881 for the Special Olympics of Watauga County. The 16th annual Polar Plunge will take place on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. at Duck Pond. FIle Photo | The Appalachian

Watauga County Parks and Recreation and Watauga County law enforcement agencies are sponsoring the event.

The event typically raises between $8,000 and $10,000 and is the Watauga County Special

Olympics’ operating budget for the whole year, said Keron Poteat, the recreation specialist for

Watauga County Parks and Recreation and local program coordinator of the Watauga County Special Olympics.

“All the money goes to transportation, uniforms, registration fees,” Poteat said. “It all directly benefits the local athletes.”

The record for number of jumpers was set in 2002 with 313 participants due to MTV being on

Appalachian’s campus. To open the season of the television show “Road Rules,” members of the show participated alongside Appalachian students and members of the community.

The record amount raised was also in 2002, when $15,500 was raised.

Last year’s Polar Plunge had 142 individuals jump into the cold water, but the event typically averages around 170-200 people, and $6,681 was raised last year.

Poteat said for the past two years the number of participants has dwindled, in 2012 it was due to a postponement and the event had to be rescheduled, but she said she could not explain the decline last year. She hopes to see an increase in participation this year.

The event is planned each year by the Special Olympics of Watauga County, the Boone Police Department, Appalachian State University Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department and the hospital police.

Chief of Appalachian State Police Department Gunther Doerr said the campus police participate in this fundraiser every year and have done so for about 15 years.

“Of course we’re there to make sure everything goes safely and that everyone has a good time,” Doerr said. “We invite all the other police agencies to be a part of it because the Special Olympics has kind of always been a fundraiser for police enforcement throughout the country.”

Medical staff will be on site. Members of the Watauga Rescue squad and their dive team will be ready to help with any possible problems.

Individuals taking the plunge will pay a registration fee of $25 and groups of five or more get a discounted rate at $20 per person. Each participant receives a Polar Plunge towel.

Prizes will be awarded to the individual and the group that raises the most money and also the male and female with the best costume.

“We’ve had so many different costumes over the years, we’ve had people jump in duck outfits, people dressed as flamingos and the incredible hulk, people have worn inflatable outfits or cardboard cars,” Poteat said.

Story: Nicole Caporaso, News Reporter

File Photo