Borden’s Polar Plunge looked different this year due to COVID-19 policies that made it more socially distant.
To ensure the safety of participants, Polar Plunge coordinators enforced procedures that are consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines, such as masks being worn until participants entered the water, six feet physical distancing and no public spectators were permitted to gather.
Area Competition Director Michelle DeWitt said she believes COVID-19 also affected the normal flow of the Plunge compared to previous years.
“We staged the whole event with timelines for each team,” DeWitt said. “That changed our registration process, plunging process and the ability to watch other teams as well.”
Only 6 plungers were allowed in the water at a time, in order to keep a distance between them. Normally, entire teams would be plunging together.
One of the plunging groups was IU Southeast’s Tau Kappa chapter of Kappa Sigma, whose participating members fundraised a total of over a thousand dollars.
The fraternity has now participated in the event for six straight years.
Kappa Sigma President Sam Nance, a senior majoring in criminal justice said that the Special Olympics is not their main fundraiser, but they are one of the only chapters that do this event.
“We have a whole chair position designated to only Special Olympics and they oversee all of those philanthropic events,” Nance said.
Along with the Polar Plunge, Kappa Sigma members also volunteer in Special Olympics basketball, where numerous brothers freely take part in coaching individuals and even participate in championships on unified teams.
Nance said that the Special Olympics is very important to Kappa Sigma and they know that all of the money they raise will help a lot of those in the long run.
Special Olympics Indiana, in collaboration with the global Special Olympics movement, uses sport, health, education and leadership programs to stop discrimination against and support people with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics Indiana has been working to change lives for over 50 years and currently helps more than 18,000 people across the state yearly.
DeWitt said that due to COVID-19, participation and donations were down this year compared to years prior.
“Last year we had approximately 350 plungers and raised over $110,000,” DeWitt said. “This year we had approximately 195 plungers and raised around $72,390.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees were still happy to partake in the good cause.
“The sense of community was somewhat missing this year because groups couldn’t intermingle with each other and meet new faces,” Nance said. “On the bright side, people were still out there raising money for a great cause and that is what matters.”