Southern Illinois takes the plunge for Special Olympics

By Kallie Cox, Staff Reporter

Approximately 202 people braced the cold and registered to jump into Campus Lake Saturday morning at SIU’s annual Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics is a not-for-profit organization that offers year-round trainings and competitions for athletes with intellectual disabilities at no cost.

In order to plunge, participants were required to raise at least $100 dollars for the Special Olympics. Participants were encouraged to wear costumes, and many swam in style. There were individuals dressed as dalmatians, pirates, ice cubes and even a banana.


The Plunge was held in conjunction with the Donut Dash, a themed 5k sponsored by Geico and the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Approximately 45 individuals registered for the dash, paying $30-$35 depending on the day that they registered.

The runners circled Campus Lake and stopped at donut stands along the way, which were filled with Dunkin Donuts donut holes. For every donut a runner ate, a minute was shaved off of their overall time.

Kimberly Talley, co-director for the southern Illinois Special Olympics region, said there were 90 volunteers helping with the event, not including the emergency dive team.

Talley said there are over 1,600 athletes with the Special Olympics in southern Illinois, but they would like to serve even more.

“We just love to be able to offer programming for sports and other activities that give socialization to anyone 2-200 that has an intellectual disability and the ability to offer that to them for free,” Talley said. “As much as we can offer through events like this, it allows us to continue to offer that to that population.”

Talley said the organization loves their partnership with SIU, and she hopes to see more students at future events.

“This generation is so good at giving back to different organizations that are charitable, so we are really enjoying the support that we are getting from that,” Talley said.


Adam Cunico, a corporal from the SIUC police department and one of the regional coordinators for the Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run, planned the Donut Dash and other officers helped to run the event.

Beverly Rowlen, an ambassador and athlete with the organization who has raised over $10,000 for the Special Olympics, said the Polar Plunge this year was a success.

Talley said there were more runners than usual at this year’s event and the goal amount for the event was $35,000. In advance of the plunge they had made about 50% of this goal and Talley said she was hopeful they would reach their goal by the end of the day.

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

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