Residents of Jefferson and Switzerland counties return to dry land after taking the Polar Plunge at Deam Lake near Borden on Saturday. The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Special Olympics of Indiana Area 2. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Residents of Jefferson and Switzerland counties return to dry land after taking the Polar Plunge at Deam Lake near Borden on Saturday. The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Special Olympics of Indiana Area 2. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Jefferson and Switzerland county residents braved 28-degree temperatures for an annual outdoor event on Saturday after raising funds for the local Special Olympics organization.

About 20 participants splashed into the waters of Deam Lake in Borden for the 2013 Polar Plunge while "Freezin' for a Reason."

Amy Gatke, fundraising chair for Jefferson and Switzerland counties and a three-year participant, said funds raised by the group will return to the area and benefit local Special Olympic teams and participants.

"This is our big fundraiser," Gatke said.

The local Polar Plunge team raised nearly $3,000 for Special Olympic events. About half of the money returns to the local area, while 40 percent of the funds will go to the state organization and 10 percent goes to fees for use of the lake.

The day of the 2013 Polar Plunge event was the coldest yet in her experience, Gatke said. It was a chilly 40 degrees when participants ran or walked into the water from the boat dock area.

"It's only a couple of minutes, but it feels like an hour," she said before the plunge. "Maybe they'll have pity on us and not go as far (into the lake)."

But just like previous years, seven divers from an underwater search and rescue team formed a semi-circle in the lake to cheer and encourage participants as they splashed through the cold waters during the plunge.

Jean Peddie tried to keep her mind off of the cold water before the group was called to the staging area.

"I'm just going to walk in and keep my eye on the line," she said.

Participant Megan Mitchell expected the water to be cold, but she wasn't prepared for exactly how cold it was.

"This was the coldest so far," Mitchell said, "but it was worth it."

Switzerland County High School student and participant Brooke Todd agreed.

"It was really cold," she said after the plunge. "My toes, I can't even feel them."

Switzerland County High School student Isaac Hart dunked - by choice - after going into the lake.

"It was really, really, really cold," he said, but the temperature didn't discourage him from considering another plunge next year. "I'm going to do it again."

Derek Hughes, a Madison Consolidated High School student and participant, wore a bathing suit to keep wet clothing from sticking to her skin after coming out of the water.

"Whatever gets in the water numbs after a while, so it's easier to walk," Hughes said, "But it's still cold."

Money raised helps to fund year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Eleven counties were represented on Saturday in the Area 2 Polar Plunge, with nearly 400 participants running, walking and splashing through the water.

Several others had planned to participate and fundraised for the event, but the cold temperatures kept them home or on the shore to cheer on their friends, Gatke said.

Polar Plunge participants from Jefferson and Switzerland counties included: Amy Gatke, Kelly Laskowski, Jean Peddie, Megan Mitchell, Sarah Bowyer, Derek Hughes, Taylor Topie, Adeli Kine, Eve Galbreath, Bradley Cox, Brooke Todd, McKenna Edwards, Erika Coy, Vicky Abbott, Isaac Hart, Kodi Thayer and Angela Grubbs.



The local Special Olympics organization accepts donations year-round, even though the largest fundraiser of the year is complete. Donations may be sent to E.O. Muncie Elementary School, C/O Amy Gatke, 800 Lanier Dr., Madison, IN 47250, or Switzerland County High School, C/O Sharon Hansel, 1020 W. Main St., Vevay, IN 47143