Eastern community takes the polar plunge


Molly Kennedy

Three women from the "Minion" team prepare to jump into the water during the 2020 Polar Plunge, which is an annual fundraising event to support Special Olympic Athletes at Eastern’s pond on Sunday night.

Ryan Meyer, Reporter

Participants for the EIU Glow Plunge raised over $21,000 for Special Olympics Illinois by Sunday night, when Eastern students, faculty and community members went out to the pavilion by campus pond to plunge.

As of Sunday night, the Special Olympics Illinois website said the EIU Glow Plunge raised $21,245.44 of their $15,000 goal.

Dozens of volunteers helped the event run smoothly throughout registration, the plunge and the cleanup afterward. One of the volunteers, Ann Sims, a senior early childhood special education major, enjoyed last year’s test run so much that she decided to participate again.

“This will be my second year plunging, and also my second year on the committee, because we just started EIU Polar Plunge last year,” she said. “That was my first year ever plunging, just because it was on campus. Even though it was negative six degrees last year, it was a lot of fun.”

The plunge took place after the sun set, so the evening took on a glowing, neon aesthetic.

Prizes are offered to groups based on the amount of money they have been raising for the Special Olympics.

“As a group you just come together and raise as much money as you can, and then you have fun with your group,” Sims said.

Participants needed to raise at least $100 to be able to plunge, said Kathryn Havercroft, interim chair of the department of special education.

Havercroft also spoke of the assistance of law enforcement and their partnership with the fundraising events.

“Law enforcement across the state of Illinois, they partner with Special Olympics Illinois for all of these polar events,” Havercroft said. “They really partner with Special Olympics to help raise money all year long.”

Havercroft said that having the plunge take place at Eastern, rather than at Lake Sara in Effingham, makes it an easier and warmer situation for students.

“Here, the best part is, students can plunge, enjoy the atmosphere, and then head to get dry,” she said.

Before the plunge, there was a costume contest between the teams that would be plunging. Sororities and the department of special education, among others, all dressed up for the festivities.

Eastern President David Glassman spoke to the group of spectators before the teams began plunging to get the crowd excited for an evening celebrating a good cause.

Vanessa Duncan, Region I Assistant Director of Special Olympics Illinois, said that the turnout for this year’s plunge was significantly better than last.

“Last year we only had 69 plungers; this year we had 132,” Duncan said.

Duncan said her goal is to have a larger student turnout in the coming years. The Polar Plunge test run that Eastern held last year seemed to influence other universities to have their own.

“We’d like to see all of EIU get involved,” Duncan said. “So last year, we had this pilot. We had two more universities do a Polar Plunge this year just because EIU did one last year.”

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]