Fifteenth Annual Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics led by ASU Police for 13th year

Appalachian State University Police Chief Gunther Doerr (Left) and Former Boone Police Chief Bill Post (Right) prepare to take an icy dip into Duck Pond for the 2004 Polar Plunge. Law enforcement agencies in Watauga County have raised money for Special Olympics athletes through the annual Polar Plunge at Duck Pond since 2000. Post has since retired and now teaches in the criminal justice department. Marie Freeman | Courtesy Photo

Joshua Farmer

Appalachian State University Police Chief Gunther Doerr (Left) and Former Boone Police Chief Bill Post (Right) prepare to take an icy dip into Duck Pond for the 2004 Polar Plunge. Law enforcement agencies in Watauga County have raised money for Special Olympics athletes through the annual Polar Plunge at Duck Pond since 2000. Post has since retired and now teaches in the criminal justice department.  Marie Freeman | Courtesy Photo
Law enforcement agencies in Watauga County have raised money for the Special Olympics athletes through the annual Polar Plunge at Duck Pond since 2000.

With the continued help of ASU Police Chief Gunther Doerr, the Polar Plunge has become a staple in the Appalachian community.

“In 2000 we took it over to sponsor it as a department and then brought in Boone Police Department and the sheriff’s office,” Doerr said. “It really goes back to the Special Olympics; law enforcement has been involved with the Special Olympics probably since the [19]70s or [19]80s.”

Doerr said that the state-run philanthropy event, the Torch Run, did not raise as much money for the local community as he would have liked. But, since the expenses for the Polar Plunge are very minimal because of donations from local businesses, almost 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the Watauga County Special Olympic athletes.

“Gunther Doerr has spear-headed the fundraiser for the past 15 years,” said Keron Poteat, the Special Olympics coordinator for Watauga County.

The Polar Plunge allows the Special Olympics to raise enough funds for the athletes to operate throughout the entire year.

Doerr said that in preparation for the Polar Plunge, the ASU Police Department creates publicity for the event, maintains the dock at Duck Pond and coordinates with medics to ensure the safety of the plungers.

For the safety of those participating in the plunge, they are required to wear wristbands to indicate who signed the liability waiver.

“We have officers going around making sure everyone is safe…If somebody is exhibiting some kind of issues the officers won’t let them plunge,” Doerr said.

Along with the risk of cuts and bruises, hypothermia could arise because of the water temperature.

“In 15 years, we haven’t had any serious injuries,” Doerr said. “For the most part, we have been pretty lucky. The water temperature has been around 33 to 34 degrees.”

Heaters and tents are on scene for the plungers to get warm immediately after they exit the freezing water.

In all of his years of coordinating the Polar Plunge, Doerr said that the year “Road Rules” MTV came and participated was the most memorable.

“We had 320 plungers and raised $13,904,” Doerr said. “That’s the most money raised and the most plungers we have had. It was huge.”

Doerr said he has taken the plunge at least eight times.

“I always tell people at least once in your four years at App, you should do it.”

The 15th Polar Plunge takes place Thursday at 3 p.m.

Story: KRISTA LOOMER, Intern News Reporter