2023 Special Olympics Michigan Polar Plunge in Mt. Pleasant helps cross $1 million in funds raised

Last weekend, people across Mt. Pleasant – passionate about advancing inclusion with Special Olympics Michigan – participated in the annual Polar Plunge event. The 2023 annual Polar Plunge event took place on Saturday, Feb.11 at Wayside Central and O’Kelly’s Sports Bar & Grille in Mt. Pleasant. Plungers included students from Central Michigan University, local business leaders, and community members and families.

Two plungers dressed as the Hulk and Batman leap into the pool during the 2023 Mt. Pleasant Polar Plunge event outside Wayside Central on February 11, 2023. (Photo: Addy Wachter/Epicenter)Polar Plunge events started back in the early 2000s, according to Bo Parker, director of communications and multimedia at Special Olympics Michigan, sharing this event specifically allows for individuals or teams to collect pledges from family and friends to participate.

“By doing so, you are giving someone with an intellectual disability a life-changing experience, through competition and community,” Parker says. “Special Olympics was founded because people with intellectual disabilities had been sidelined, marginalized, and isolated for too long. Since then, the Special Olympics has been promoting inclusion by using sports as a catalyst for systemic change.” 

A plunger sporting an animal mask jumps into the pool to support Special Olympics Michigan during the 2023 Mt. Pleasant Polar Plunge event outside Wayside Central. (Photo: Addy Wachter/Epicenter)One of the main goals of Special Olympics Michigan is striving to advance inclusion. The Polar Plunge is one of many fundraisers that support this goal for Special Olympics Michigan. 

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is also an important event in Mt. Pleasant. Police Officer Joshua Theisen, member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, participated in the Polar Plunge by jumping, helping set up for the event and selling merchandise, along with fundraising and promoting the event.

“It helps bring the community together in a positive manner to raise money and awareness for such a good cause that is a part of so many families,” Theisen says. “The Special Olympics has helped change so many lives just giving the athletes support and opportunity that they might not have received elsewhere.”

(Photo courtesy of Dan Gaken)According to Special Olympics Michigan on Facebook, over the weekend plungers raised over $260,000. This brings their Polar Plunge season, now three weeks in, to a total over $1.1 million, very close to their $1.2 million goal. 

If you are interested in participating in a future Plunge and helping Special Olympics Michigan make 2023 one for the record books, sign up and/or donate options are available at plungemi.org.
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Read more articles by Addy Wachter.

Addy Wachter is a Grand Haven resident who is currently a student at Central Michigan University. She plans to graduate during the summer of 2023 with a major in photojournalism and a minor in cultural and global studies. Along with working with Epicenter, she is a photographer and writer at Central Michigan Life newspaper who enjoys traveling and exploring new places in her spare time, always taking her camera with her wherever she goes.