polar plunge

The annual Valparaiso Special Olympics Polar Plunge is set to take place on Feb. 15 outside the ARC in front of the Victory Bell. The event is through Special Olympics Indiana and is being coordinated by Phi Sigma Kappa and the Valparaiso University Police Department. Valpo has held the Polar Plunge for about ten years consecutively. 

Last year, around $53,000 was raised for the cause where participants fundraise to jump into a pool of cold water then celebrate with Special Olympics athletes. To date, over $7 million has been raised for Special Olympics due to the Polar Plunge.

All officers at VUPD are members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), an organization that raises funds for Special Olympics year-round. Chuck Garber, the Chief of VUPD, brought the campaign to Valpo around ten years ago and takes pride in officers’ involvement. Garber specifically is extremely dedicated to supporting the LETR and was honored as the Indiana Officer of the Year for Special Olympics. 

“When I put on the uniform for them [the Special Olympians], I get all these hugs and cops don’t get hugs that way. It took me off guard the first time I was in uniform… they really look up to us,” Garber said.

The brothers of Phi Sig take on community involvement and fundraising as their contribution to the Polar Plunge. The national philanthropy for Phi Sigma Kappa is Special Olympics and Valpo’s chapter uses Polar Plunge as their key event. The brothers of Phi Sig, led by organizer Zach Krueger, take on community involvement and fundraising as their contribution to the Polar Plunge. Like Chief Garber, Krueger finds a meaningful outlet for service in the Special Olympics.

“It’s awesome to talk to [the athletes] just personally too, get to know them on a personal level,” Krueger said. “It’s like you don’t really see them too often while you’re raising the money but once you actually see them in person, get to know who they are, it really puts it on a personal level and it just makes you feel really good, to know that you’re actually going and supporting a cause.”

Participants must raise at least $50 in order to plunge and are encouraged to form teams and to plunge while wearing costumes. 

“If you have money, donate. If you don’t, which is totally understandable because we’re all college students, just raise awareness and encourage others to sign up or donate as well,” Krueger said.

The Special Olympics Polar Plunge in Valparaiso has and continues to unite the community and university for a worthwhile cause, to the brothers of Phi Sig and the officers at VUPD, is worth getting a little wet. 

“Eunice Shriver, President Kennedy’s sister, was the founder of Special Olympics,” Garber said. “She had all these reasons to help these folks and it’s so parallel to this university because Special Olympics is all about inclusion, it’s about education, it’s about leadership, it’s about wellness.”

The Plunge will start with registration at 10:30 a.m. at the main entrance of the ARC and will be followed by a performance from the Crusader Pep Band, all shortly before “the plunge” takes place outside at 12:00 p.m. Phi Sig will be tabling and helping with registration in the weeks leading up to the Plunge and can be reached by email for more information at psk.philanthropy@valpo.edu.

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