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story.lead_photo.caption Stacey French (center) runs from the water with her teammates after taking a swim Saturday at the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Arkansas. Teams of plungers braved the 45-degree water of Beaver Lake to take a dip at the Prairie Creek park swim beach. Air temperature was 39 degrees when the first team hit the water at 11 a.m. Teams from businesses, schools, government agencies, as well as individuals, raised money they donated to Special Olympics. - Photo by Flip Putthoff

ROGERS -- More than 340 people took a plunge in Beaver Lake to help raise money for Special Olympics Arkansas.

Photo by Flip Putthoff
Jay Smith of Fayetteville (left) gets ready to take the Polar Plunge Saturday to benefit Special Olympics Arkansas. Teams of plungers braved the 45-degree water of Beaver Lake to take a dip at the Prairie Creek park swim beach. Air temperature was 39 degrees when the first team hit the water at 11 a.m.

The participants, many dressed in costumes, took part in Saturday's Polar Plunge at the Prairie Creek Swim Area.

Special Olympics Arkansas

The mission of Special Olympics Arkansas is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. Special Olympics Arkansas offer 20 different sports and hold more than 240 competitions throughout the state each year.

Source: Special Olympics Arkansas

An announcer told plungers that the water was a "balmy 39 degrees."

Brent Byrum of Springdale said he was taking the plunge to help raise money for Special Olympics. It was Byrum's first year to participate in the event.

"A few of my friends are doing it and I don't want to say I'm doing it because of peer pressure," Byrum said.

Byrum said it's great to see so many people come and support a great cause.

Stan Chesser of Rogers was dressed as a bobber while his 15-year-old daughter, Aubrey, had wooden fish hanging from her neck. Chesser took the plunge for the first time in 2008 with some friends.

Chesser's friends have all stopped, so he recruited his daughter to take her first plunge in the lake.

"It's fun," Chesser said. "It's all about the kids."

Aubrey Chesser said she was excited and a little scared moments before people started running into the water.

Ray Moore also took his first plunge on Saturday. It was his wife's sixth time participating in the event and their 10-year-old, Trevor, second year participating. Moore said he finally relented as result of family pressure, but he said it is all for a good cause.

Mark Jordan, a Bentonville police detective, has been involved with Special Olympics and the Plunge since the first one in 1999. Jordan could not take the plunge last year, but returned Saturday to the water.

Jordan said more than 350 people participated in Saturday's event. Jordan said the Northwest Arkansas plunge is the biggest one in the state.

It grows each year, Jordan said.

Donna Kilmer, Northwest Arkansas field representative for Special Olympics, said they raised $51,600 from last year's Plunge and she expects them to raise at least $53,000 from this year's event.

"We have a fun and giving community," Kilmer said. "They love supporting and giving to a good nonprofit."

Kilmer said the money raised from the Plunge stays in Arkansas to support the training for athletes and for them to compete in the state, nationally and internationally.

Kilmer said Special Olympics Arkansas is the last state to provide opportunities to their athletes free of charge.

NW News on 02/14/2016

Print Headline: Plunge helps Special Olympics

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