OCEANSIDE — How do you get ready to jump into 50-degree ocean water for the Polar Plunge at Oceanside Pier on Feb. 18? Special Olympic athlete Hanna Ramsey said she practices by swimming in a cold pool.Some Polar Plunge team participants adopt the attitude that it is mind over matter and get ready by creating fun team costumes.Teresa Contreras, Special Olympics regional volunteer manager, said she remembers the water temperature being “freezing” last year.
“Cold is fine, but rain and wind are not our friends,” Contreras said.
It is up to swimmers how far they go out in the chilly ocean and whether or not they submerge themselves.
“We have a new category ‘too chicken to plunge,’ so people can still fundraise and come out and show support,” Contreras said.
Polar Plunge participants are required to raise a minimum of $50 to support the Special Olympics. The annual event raises about $18,000 for year-round sports programs for mentally challenged athletes.
“Funds pay for all of our programs, facilities, equipment, uniforms,” Contreras said. “Athletes don’t pay any money to be a part of our program.”
To keep the Polar Plunge fun, trophies are awarded for the most funds raised, most plungers on a team and best team costumes.
“In costumes we look for uniqueness,” Contreras said. “If it’s close we go by a crowd cheer.”
Contreras said participants come back year after year because of the cause.
“They know what the money is going toward,” she said. “I can’t imagine people love to jump in freezing water.”
Special Olympics competitions take place in Oceanside, San Diego, El Cajon, Chula Vista and Santee. Athletes who do well in local games go on to Special Olympics World Games.
Contreras said the spirit of the athletes is amazing.
“They’re caring, kind, happy and love to be out there,” she said.
The Special Olympics builds athletic skills and also helps participants with self-confidence and people skills.
“They go to school, go to work, do lots of things in the community,” Contreras said. “It gives them confidence to do things that maybe they would not have done.”
Registration to participate in the Polar Plunge is open through the day of the event. For more information on the Special Olympics or Polar Plunge, visit sosc.org.