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Polar Plunge adapts with new fundraisers for Special Olympic athletes



Polar Plunge organizers are diving into new opportunities to raise money for Special Olympics of Wisconsin in a safe way because of the pandemic.

Almost a year ago, 400 local volunteers pre-registered for the 22nd Annual Polar Plunge in La Crosse. Their efforts raised $60,000 before the event even started. This year, organizers are offering creative new ways to participate while still supporting athletes.

“Instead of plunging into the river, we’re plunging downhill with a tubing event out at the White Tail Ridge Ski Area at Fort McCoy,” Kerry Gloede, Polar Plunge committee member, said.

Registration is required, and participants are asked to raise $75 to earn the adventure and a long-sleeve tee. The private event is scheduled for Feb. 29 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. An additional, optional challenge for the event is to take part in the free Cardboard Box race.

Just in the La Crosse area, there are more than 300 Special Olympic athletes.

“If you look at our region of the state, there are about 1,700 of our athletes that haven’t been able to really participate in a lot of programs and events as they normally have, so we are really excited to offer something that we can raise funds so our athletes can get back out there and participate,” Gloede said.

For those looking for a different way to participate, there is a Chillin’ at Home option! Participants can take an icy plunge from the safety of their own homes. Some ideas include adding a bucket of ice water to a favorite TikTok dance, taking the plunge in a bathtub full of ice, make swimsuit snow angels, and more. There will still be incentives to raise beyond the minimum $75.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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