Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Taking the Plunge ; Volunteers Take a Chilly Dip to Raise Money for Special Olympics

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Taking the Plunge ; Volunteers Take a Chilly Dip to Raise Money for Special Olympics

Article excerpt

It's hard to run in water, no matter what temperature it is. Saturday afternoon at Scales Lake in Boonville, group after group of Polar Plungers went running into the lake, with many of them only to stumble and drop face-first into the frigid water. It was the 10th annual Polar Plunge at Scales Lake, and it brought in record amounts of participants and money. The 12 Polar Plunges held around the state each year are the largest fundraisers for Special Olympics Indiana.

This year's event at Scales Lake raised more than $70,000 with around 200 Plungers. Last year's event raised $23,000.

Most of the increase came from first-time Plunger Keith Shelton, a Boonville resident who has been involved in Special Olympics for more than three decades. Shelton raised $30,000, about three times the old state record for an individual Polar Plunge participant.

"I'm 64 years old," he said. "I've known about the Polar Plunge for a while, but I was never enough of an idiot to do it. But once I took the first donation this year, I realized it didn't matter what I did, I was already committed."

Shelton's sister - who helped start the Special Olympics program in Warrick County - got him involved in Special Olympics 30 years ago when she roped him into coaching basketball. He's stayed active with Special Olympics ever since, but has never even considered taking part in the Polar Plunge until this year.

The donations have come from individuals, businesses, civic groups and more.

"I had an advantage," Shelton said. "I had more than 40 years of collecting friends. So I just called people. I was maybe a little over-the-line aggressive, but I had a good reason for it. And it has been successful."

Shelton raised funds for about two months.

At one point, he raised at least $1,000 a day for 17 consecutive days. Every time he reached his fundraising goal, he pushed the goal higher. The donations ranged from just a few dollars to more than $600.

Shelton, dressed in a red-and-white old-fashioned swimsuit with a straw hat and sunglasses, was given the honor of being the first person into the water Saturday afternoon. …

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