Liberty Lake plunge raises cold cash for Special Olympics

Members of the Eastern Washington University football team, including Aaron Neary (72), Clay DeBord (78) and Vernon Adams (3), emerge from Liberty Lake during Saturday’s Polar Plunge. (Mark Gregory)

Some came to the Special Olympics Polar Plunge dressed in costumes. Others came in shorts or bathing suits. Others came just to watch and cheer, but they all came to help raise money for the sports charity at Liberty Lake Regional Park.

With a hole cut in the lake ice and a team of divers from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on hand for emergencies, the first group plunged in at noon Saturday.

Team Copsicles, a group of law enforcement staff including Liberty Lake police Chief Brian Asmus and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, got the honor of going first because they raised the most money, $9,000.

Dane Yalian wore a full-body mouse costume, complete with ears. His employer, Vivint, agreed to make a donation for each employee who participated. “They said they’d donate extra money if I dressed up,” he said.

Tim Lett of Team Frosted Flakes from Felts Field wore a multicolored tutu over his shorts and a bright green wig. “I’m just trying to be the most outrageous-looking guy here and I failed,” he said. “I’m just here because everyone says I shouldn’t do it.”

Event organizers had tallied $46,000 by Friday and were hoping to break the $55,000 mark by the end of the day Saturday, said Special Olympics development director Jennifer Suniga. All money raised in the area benefits local athletes with disabilities, who pay nothing to compete, Suniga said. “We rely solely on private contributions,” she said.

Two dozen members of the Eastern Washington University football team rumbled into the water wearing their jerseys. “It was a blast,” long snapper Cory Alcantar said. “It was pretty freezing. I’m from California.”

His team raised more than $3,000, Alcantar said. “We’ve been doing this for the last couple of years,” he said. “We’re all about giving back to the community that supports us.”

EWU coach Beau Baldwin lauded his players for taking the initiative to create a team for the event. “We were out recruiting and they were busy getting this done and raising the dollars,” he said.

Baldwin had intended just to cheer his players on from the sidelines, but he found himself lining up to take the plunge as well. “I kind of had to borrow some clothes and towel,” he said. “I figured there was no way I couldn’t participate.”

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