Brave souls take Polar Plunge at Clifford Lake for Special Olympics


By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 11:59 am on Monday, February 13, 2012

Some of the participants, such as this flock of ducks, worked together to raise funding and then also jumped together at Saturday’s Polar Plunge. — Daily News/Lori Hansen

STANTON — It was the coldest day so far this winter, but it didn’t stop participants from helping raise money for Special Olympics.

The fourth annual Polar Plunge at Clifford Lake was one of 24 scheduled around the state the next few months to help raise funds for year-round sports training and athletic competitions for more than 18,600 children and adults with disabilities.

“We had 82 individuals or groups registered this year, some representing different groups or organizations,” said Richard Nostrant, Special Olympics Area 6 director, “We hope to raise $30,000, which would be more than the $25,000 last year.

Some of the groups included participants representing law enforcement agencies and local schools. Many of the participants dressed in costume, with characters such s the Grinch, Angry Birds, M&M’s or pencils. Half of the funding raised will go to the local Area 6 athletes.

Jody Meyer of Montabella and Sarah Rockburn of Martin, wearing leotards and tutus, jumped together.

“I coach Special Olympics and teach at the high school,” Meyer said, “I have done it all four years, and I do it for the cause. People are so good about helping others.”

“The money goes for the kids and for those who plunge, it is a life-changing experience,” Rockburn said.

The Grinch, aka Jim Peacock, takes the plunge at Saturday’s Polar Plunge at the Clifford Lake Inn. The fourth annual event is a fundraiser for Special Olympics. Peacock, a criminal justice instructor at Montcalm Community College, said his students challenged him to jump and he challenged them to donate. — Daily News/Lori Hansen

Larry and Connie McKeown, Clifford Lake Inn restaurant owners, said the number of volunteers make it easier to host an event with nearly 400 people — participants and spectators — involved.

“Two weeks ago it was 45 degrees outside, and we were wondering if we were going to be able to do it, if it would be safe to do to it this year,” said Larry McKeown.
Connie McKeown said online registration was a great addition, making the process smoother.

“It’s a great way to be able to help our community and it also helps promote our business because people can see what we do here. It’s one of several community events we have through the year,” she said.

With ice on the lake only four to six inches thick, compared to the 14 inches last year, only rescue agencies and those plunging were allowed on the frozen lake. Water temperatures were at a brisk 32 degrees.

“It’s cold and there is no way you can prepare for it,” said John Wheeler, a Kent County parole officer, “The goal is to get in, then get out as quickly as possible.

“This is the second one I’ve done this year, and raised $210 at this one,” said Wheeler, who wore a Hawaiian luau outfit, complete with grass skirt and coconut shell brassiere, “It is great to give back to the community and help kids. We don’t often see kids on this side of the law and it feels great to help them and give back.”

Trophies and prizes were given out in several categories with The Daily News’ Linda Stafford and Juliet Dragos, co-anchor of WZZM-TV 13 evening news, serving as judges. The youngest jumper was 7 years old and the oldest participant was 62.

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