Students leap into Duck Pond to fund Special Olympics


The Appalachian Online

The Appalachian

(UPDATE 7:30 p.m. 2/17/15) According to a news release from University Communications, the Polar Plunge has been rescheduled to Feb. 26 due to inclement weather. The story previously reported Feb. 19 as originally scheduled, but has been updated accordingly.

The campus landmark Duck Pond is usually a placid sight during colder months, but on Feb. 26, the scene will be anything but calm.

Appalachian State University students will jump into Duck Pond’s frigid waters at 3 p.m. to raise money for Watauga County Special Olympics as a part of the 17th Annual Polar Plunge.

Keron Poteat, local coordinator for Special Olympics in Watauga County said Polar Plunge raises about $8,000 to $10,000 per year, all of which directly benefits Special Olympics athletes in Watauga County.

Such lucrative donations make Polar Plunge the primary fundraiser for Special Olympics.

“It basically provides our annual operating budget for the whole year,” Poteat said.

Last year, the highest-earning group was Appalachian’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, who raised $1,500 out of the $8,000 total. Health and Exercise Science assistant professor Roachel Laney’s recreation management class collected a second-best $1,300.

Local law enforcement also scours the community in search of corporate donations, but Poteat said Appalachian students are the biggest contributors.

Registration for the event is from 3-4 p.m. The cost is $25 for individual jumpers, but groups of four or more pay a reduced rate of $20 per person.

All participants receive a complimentary Polar Plunge towel and Poteat said there will be warming and changing tents available for those who take a dip in the icy waters.

Senior marketing major Bryan Wright was one such student who took the plunge in both 2013 and 2014 and plans to return to Duck Pond this year in a penguin costume.

“I jump knowing that not only am I taking part in a popular Boone tradition, but I’m also giving back to an important cause,” Wright said.

On the other hand, Poteat, who has jumped at roughly half of her 15-16 attendances, said the water is strangely refreshing.

“When you hit that water, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s quite a rush, you cannot explain to anybody what it’s going to feel like.”

Prizes are awarded in several categories, including most extreme male and female costumes, top fundraising group and top fundraising individual.

Both Poteat and Wright recalled crazy costumes in years past, including a man in a blow-up tutu and a professor who raised $500 to jump into the pond in a speedo.

Andy Le Beau, Captain of Boone Police Operations promised an officer will make the plunge in his uniform.

“Polar Plunge is primarily the initiative of Keron [Poteat] and the ASU Police Department,” Le Beau said.

Poteat said the event “started with law enforcement wanting to do a fundraiser for Special Olympics.”

Poteat credited the Boone Police Department, ASU Police Department, Sheriff’s Department and Hospital Police as being instrumental in helping set up the event.

STORY: Luke Weir, Intern News Reporter