It’s only fitting that Saturday’s Polar Plunge occurred on one of the coldest days of the winter. In what’s mostly been a mild season, about 200 people ran in 20-degree weather to plunge into the water at Tuttle Creek Lake.
“This makes great Polar Plunge weather,” said Luke Schulte, director of special events for Special Olympics Kansas. The event, a fund-raiser for the organization, raised around $20,000.
Schulte, who has been coordinating the event for four years, said he always enjoys seeing the support of the Manhattan community. “The mass of people here is impressive, especially for it being such a cold day,” he said.
Ten Special Olympics athletes watched as team after team took the plunge. The plungers included two first-timers who know a little something about helping others, Dr. Debra Doubek and Major Steve Meadows.
“We take care of lots of Special Olympics patients in our practice,” said Doubek, who works at Stonecreek Family Physicians. “We want to give back to that.”
Doubek, along with other Stonecreek physicians and workers, participated in the event wearing a Pacman-related costume. Doubek went as “Clyde,” the orange ghost.
“We thought the Pacman Plungers had a ring to it,” she said. “The costumes were easy to make.”
Meadows participated with the Army Brats, which included Lt. Col. Chris Zielke and his family. “We’re looking forward to a great day out here supporting the Special Olympics,” Meadows said. “It’s a worthwhile cause.”
Meadows, who is from Alabama, took the plunge wearing clothing — no shirt, shorts and an Army hat — seemingly reserved for the 70-degree weather he was missing out on at home.
“I’m feeling the heat of the event and the excitement is keeping us warm,” Meadows said. He made the water look warm once he got in.
Meadows said he wanted to go all the way to the ropes, but he didn’t have a willing partner. He also took his time, walking out of the water rather than running in as many others did.
“At that point, you’re in no hurry,” Meadows said. “Once you’re in, you’re in. You can’t get much colder.”
Doubek, on the other hand, didn’t have as comforting of an experience. “It was as bad as I thought it would be,” she said about the cold water.
Although many fully submerged themselves in the water, Doubek would not be one of them. She entered the water, but the top half of her body remained mostly dry.
“I’ve run two marathons,” she said. “I’d rather run a marathon than get all the way in the water.”