People Take the Plunge to Help Special Olympics Athletes

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –Central Iowans woke up to snow and freezing temperatures, but that didn’t stop everyone from enjoying the great outdoors. Some even spent time on the beach.

“So it’s windy and snowy,” Five-year-old Henry Ladwig said.

You wouldn’t expect to find a large crowd on the beach on a snowy Sunday in December. Henry’s brother Liam added, “I think it’s going to be really cold and I’m excited.”

170 people and their cheerleaders gathered at Raccoon River Park for Special Olympics Iowa’s Polar Plunge.

“There’s a lot of excitement around this event and the weather couldn’t be better for a polar plunge,” Karen Whitman with Special Olympics Iowa said.

Members from 20 teams shivered their way to the sandy starting line to take the plunge into the 33 degree water. Teams ranged from high school students from Ankeny Centennial and Southeast Polk to West Des Moines Police Officers with their kids.

“Special Olympics is a great organization, a lot of us has some ties to it personally,” Officer Nate Ladwig said.

Some wore costumes and others had clever names. They were all there to raise money for Special Olympics athletes. Channel 13’s Sonya Heitshusen also joined in.

“It’s really cold, it’s really cold. My feet are frozen,” she said. “It’s for the kids. Sports has done so much for my life, so everybody should have the opportunity to play.”

The plungers raised $40,000 to help more than 14,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities around the state.

“We can suffer for a little bit to show those athletes that have to go through so much we’re here to support them anyway we can,” said Ladwig.

Money raised will help the Special Olympics athletes with year-round training and competition. Each participant had to raise at least $75.