Thirty-eight people jumped into the freezing cold water of Mouse Lake to raise money for Special Olympics, Saturday morning.

The Polar Plunge, which raises money to support the more than 4,000 Kansas athletes with intellectual disabilities, brought out participants representing varied groups such as the Emporia Middle and High School student councils and the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity and dressed in everything from penguin costumes to brightly-colored Speedos.

“Special Olympics is just a fantastic organization that supports people with mental and physical disabilities and gives them things that others take for granted, so to speak,” said John Koelsch, the undersheriff of Lyon County and a volunteer with Special Olympics since 1984. “It means so much for them. That’s the reason we raise money for Special Olympics. It takes a lot of resources in order to have those events for the Special Olympians.”

On a typical year, the event would draw closer to 100 plungers, Koelsch said, and would involve a few additional festivities. However, due to COVID-19, many things had to be scaled back with the Polar Plunge in 2021.

Lauren Williams took her first Polar Plunge representing Flint Hills Technical College and said that she did it because her typical way of supporting individuals with disabilities was not available this year.

“Every year I do something for [people with] special needs for the past fours,” Williams said. “I usually do a prom for [people with] special needs through Night to Shine, and unfortunately this year that got canceled. So I wanted to still give back and what better way to do it than this?”

When asked how the experience was, Williams said, “Freezing. Definitely, I’ll do it again though.”

Don Lobmeyer is from Wichita and travels around Kansas and Missouri participating in Polar Plunges.

“I started off last year and did it as [Kansas City] Chiefs Santa and had fun with that one,” he said. “I’ve got some friends that have kids that are in Special Olympics. And then, here in Emporia, being the founding city for Veterans Day and being a veteran myself, I figured it was just the perfect time to do it up here.”

This was Lobmeyer’s third Polar Plunge this year and he plans to do a total of 10.

Those who are interested in participating in next year’s Polar Plunge should go to facebook.com/EmporiaPlunge or plungeks.org/emporia.

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