GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Over 300 Grand Rapids area community members plunged into an icy pool at the Fifth Third Ball Park Saturday, Feb. 1 to help raise over $91,000 for the Kent County area of Special Olympics Michigan, according to Special Olympics Michigan coordinator Andy West.
The Polar Plunge is a fundraiser organized by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which benefits Special Olympics Michigan. There are 30 Polar Plunge events in Michigan each year, and Saturday's Grand Rapids Polar Plunge efforts surpassed West's fundraising expectation and beat last year's total.
West said he expected to raise $80,000 this year. Last year, the event raised $73,000. "We're very, very happy," he said.
He said he credits this year's success to the Grand Rapids community members. "We're just really fortunate to have the (over 20) community partners in Grand Rapids," West said.
Those partners are made up of 10 to 15 sponsors and local businesses that organized teams, according to West. 32 teams participated in this year's plunge, and a team made up of a Grand Rapids waterproofing company's employees, Everdry Waterproofing (Everdry Plungers), took home the Polar Bear Trophy for the top fundraising team.
The money raised by those partners, teams and volunteers helps the athletes and their families participate in Special Olympics Michigan state competitions. The next state tournament is Feb. 5-7 in Traverse City.
"Those families don't have to pay for anything to send their athletes to the Winter Games because of events like this," West said.
West said he and his team are still counting Saturday's fundraising total. The final amount is expected to be tallied on Monday.
Muskegon's Polar Plunge in late January raised $130,000. The 30 plunges across the state collectively raise over $1 million each year to support nearly 23,000 Special Olympics athletes' sports training and athletic competitions.
For the list of the Polar Plunge locations, click here.
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