Plungers plunge for Special Olympics


Jason Howell

Andy Doto, associate resident director of Taylor Hall, plunges with other hall residents during the Polar Plunge on Saturday at Lake Sara near Effingham.

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Organizations from around Coles County came together to plunge the waters of Lake Sara in Effingham to raise money for Area 9 of the Illinois Special Olympics.

Many of the plungers came dressed in the same outfits as their teams, such as multi-colored tutus, wigs and masks with the colors of the American flag, and superheroes.

Caresse Ike, from Paris, was dressed as Superman along with Brittney Hall, also from Paris, who went as batman.

Ike, who works is a coach for the Special Olympics, said they usually just wear T-shirts, but they wanted to do something more this year.

Although the weather was warmer than in previous years, Hall said they would come in rain, snow, and other conditions.

Hall said the warmer weather would not make a difference.

“It will still be freezing, painful, everything,” Ike said.

Hall said it was well worth the pain, though.

A group of employees from Pizza Hut dressed up in their uniforms, holding giant forks, spoons and spatulas that they made. One of them was even in a sign made to look like pizza.

Marissa Morris, one of the employees from Lake Marshall, said they raised money by having a collection jar at work as well as by asking their family and friends.

She said they collected $71 in the jar in just two weeks.

Carole Hodorowicz, a freshman journalism major, was already wearing the shorts and tank top she would plunge in later in the day.

She said she had heard it was easier to take off wet clothes when wearing less of them, but she was not sure if it was true or not.

Hodorowicz said her friends and family were excited to see her plunge. She said her little brother, who has autism, does not know yet that she was plunging, but that she would show him the video.

Hodorowicz was plunging with members of the sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha, whose philanthropy is the Special Olympics.

Her sorority sisters Alicia Miller, a junior business management major, and Arely Morales, a senior communication studies major, were there for moral support but said they might consider plunging next year.

Morales said she might if it was ten degrees warmer.

Many precautions are taken to make sure plungers stay safe.

Cory Stamper, an EMT with the Altamont Ambulance Service, and Anna Hobler also an EMT, were on standby in case someone got hurt.

Stamper said there was the danger of hypothermia and rocks on the ground that people should watch out for.

Hobler said people could stay safe by watching their step and being cautious of their surroundings.

She said she probably would not plunge herself.

“I do cold, but not that cold,” Hobler said. “(But they) do it for a good cause, so props to them.”

The Effingham Dive and Rescue team also were standing by.

Jeremy Kyle, assistance commander captain, said they make safety sweeps to make sure there is no hidden debris in the water before the plunge.

During the plunge, they stay in the water for the whole time to make sure everyone is safe.

He said there had been no incidents and the event is very safe.

Many groups, including the Effingham Police Department and CCAR Industries participated in the Polar Plunge.

People cheered on these groups as they plunged, and many screamed and yelled as they went into the water and came out dripping wet.

Aubrey Shuh, a freshman special education and early childhood education major, said she was not able to feel anything when she first went in the water.

“I was in shock when I first got in,” she said.

Kristi Zabka, a freshman kinesiology and sports studies major, said the cold hit her when she went to high five the person in the water.

“You die a little,” she said. “It was ten times colder than I expected.”

413 people participated in the plunge this year. Last year, it was 223.

Vanessa Duncan, director of Special Olympics for Area 9, said the corporate challenge they had, which companies such as Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, and UPS participated in, and all the Eastern students who participated contributed to the large turnout.

“It’s definitely more fun with more pledgers,” Duncan said. “The more the merrier.”

Members of the Epsilon Sigma Alpha service sorority prepare to plunge into Lake Sara during the Polar Plunge on Saturday near Effingham.
Jason Howell
Members of the Epsilon Sigma Alpha service sorority prepare to plunge into Lake Sara during the Polar Plunge on Saturday near Effingham.


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]