February 28, 2013 in Health, Washington Voices

Plunge raises cold cash for Special Olympics

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Washington State Patrol trooper Jon McKee, left, and Airway Heights police officer Mike Suniga haul their cold bodies out of Liberty Lake on Feb. 22 after taking their 16th polar plunge of the day in support of Special Olympics Washington.
(Full-size photo)

There were a few shrieks Friday afternoon as 10 men and women dashed into the chilly water of Liberty Lake through a hole cut in the ice. They lingered a bit to pose for a picture and exchange high-fives with two divers dressed in dry suits, then they made for shore and a warming tent or the hot tub.

It’s not unusual for people to partake in a polar plunge. This group of die-hards were super plungers, who took the plunge 24 times between dawn and dusk in a bid to raise money for Special Olympics.

“It’s been cold,” said Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus as he shivered in a wet T-shirt and shorts. “Each time it’s getting a little bit harder.”

The super plungers were asked to collect at least $650 in donations to take part in the event, far more than the $50 donation for a typical Special Olympics plunge. Asmus collected more than $4,000.

No one seemed to be having much of a problem with the cold, even though the weather changed from snow to rain to slush and back again. Gusts of wind occasionally swept the beach of Liberty Lake Regional Park. The heat in the warming tents was cranked so high that anyone who wasn’t dripping with lake water broke into a sweat. The hot tub also got a lot of use, though Asmus said he learned not to go straight from the hot tub to the lake. “I won’t repeat that,” he said. “It was not good. It made the water feel even colder than it was.”

Friday’s event was the first super plunge in the Spokane area, said Special Olympics development manager Jennifer Suniga. Suniga said top fundraisers from previous years were contacted to see if they were interested in participating. “This community is extremely supportive,” she said.

Suniga’s husband, Mike, also participated. He is an Airway Heights police officer.

Two members of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office dive team were on hand to make sure there were no problems in the water. “They’re in the water when we are to make sure we’re safe,” Asmus said.

Virginia Adolfson made a beeline for the hot tub after her most recent dip in the lake. This is her fifth year of plunging and she was eager to sign up for the super plunge when asked. When she was a student at Ferris High School she was an assistant coach for special athletes. “I absolutely fell in love with the kids,” she said. “They changed my life.”

Plunging is one way to give back, she said. She raised $800 for the privilege of dunking repeatedly in the freezing water. “It was hard at first,” she said. “It’s not too bad. I thought it was going to be a lot worse.”

Adolfson said she’ll be back for the next super plunge. “I absolutely love it,” she said. “It’s nice to be a part of an elite team. There’s only a few of us.”

Asmus said getting a little cold isn’t that hard. “We think about what the Special Olympics athletes have to go through every day,” he said. “We keep that in mind to keep us going. This is nothing.”


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