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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/SPENCER TIREY Special Olympic athletes from the Arkansas School for the Death and Conway Arkansas compete in floor hockey, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, at the Jones Center in Springdale. The athletes participated in the states winter games that comprised of floor hockey and speed skating.

BENTONVILLE -- Hundreds of people will likely take a dip in Beaver Lake to support state athletes competing in the Special Olympics.

The annual Beaver Lake Polar Plunge is scheduled for 11 a.m. Feb. 10 at the Prairie Creek swim area. Registration begins at 10 a.m.

Polar Plunge

Polar Plunge is a fundraiser held in several locations across the state in which individuals and teams take the plunge into various bodies of water to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Arkansas.

Participants must be at least 12 years of age and raise a minimum of $50 per person.

The Fort Smith Polar Plunge is 10 a.m. today at Carol Ann Cross Park, 1601 S. 74th St.

The Beaver Lake Polar Plunge is 11 a.m. Feb. 10 at Prairie Creek swim area, 9314 N. Park Road, Rogers.

For more information about the Beaver Lake Polar Plunge, contact: Mark Jordan 479-271-3186 or Donna Kilmer 479-366-3216 or by email at donna@specialolympicsarkansas.org.

Source: Special Olympics Arkansas

The event is coordinated by Special Olympics Arkansas and the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

Donna Kilmer, a field representative for Special Olympics Arkansas, said the money raised from the event will help provide free year-round sports training and competition opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities. She said the state group supports 15,000 athletes across Arkansas in 20 Olympic-type sports.

Kilmer said there are 240 competitions throughout the state and Special Olympics Arkansas offers programming in education and health and wellness.

One annual event -- the Winter Games -- began Thursday at the Jones Center in Springdale. The competition ends today.

Last year's Polar Plunge raised $46,000 with 350 plungers representing schools and businesses, according to Kilmer.

Detective Mark Jordan with the Bentonville Police Department said he and Treva Chouinard, who was a field representative for the Special Olympics, planned the first local plunge in 1999 at Hickory Creek. He said they had only 17 participants and raised $3,000 in that first plunge.

Jordan said the past few years have averaged 275 plungers raising $40,000.

Law enforcement gets involved in Special Olympics because of the Torch Run, Jordan said.

"The Torch Run started as a way to raise awareness for those individuals who have physical and emotional disabilities," Jordan said. "The Plunge is just another way to raise awareness and also money for the athletes and their families."

Officers also raise money selling Torch Run T-shirts and waiting tables at Tip-A-Cop events at Northwest Arkansas restaurants.

Jordan said as a father to three boys who are interested in sports, acting and other activities, he knows how expensive extracurricular activities are.

"So if I, as a dad who just happens to be a law enforcement officer, can help take a little bit of that financial stress off a parent of an athlete who loves to compete in Special Olympics, then count me in," he said. "To see the athlete's smiling face when he or she competes in one of the events he or she has been training for puts everything in perspective."

Robin Larson of Rogers said her daughter, Kelli Nichols, is 31 years old and has been participating in Special Olympics since she was 6.

"She started with track and field," Larson said. "Then she got into softball and baseball and volleyball. Now she's into aquatics. That's her thing right now."

Larson said she appreciates the people involved in Special Olympics and the culture and spirit of community it fosters.

"We were at one meet where there were several girls running in an event and one of them fell," Larson said. "The others all stopped and went back to see if she was OK. In any other competition they would all have kept on running. In Special Olympics they really care about each other."

Larson said she has participated in the Polar Plunge in the past but isn't this year. She said she will volunteer, handing out prizes, and her daughter enjoys watching. Larson said the Plunge is a unique experience.

"I have gone into the water," she said. "It's very, very cold. One year they had the dive team out there breaking up the ice. It'll sure wake you up."

NW News on 02/03/2018

Print Headline: Special Olympics plan for 'plungers'

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