Polar plunge festival supports Special Olympics

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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Saturday night Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties all joined together to raise money to benefit the largest sports organization for those with different intellectual and physical abilities— the Special Olympics.

Saint Joseph Avenue was blocked off and shut down Saturday for the coolest event of the winter—the Polar Plunge Festival.

Where people from all over the state came together all freezing for a reason!

Cannon balls, jack knives, and belly flops were just a few of the cool moves plungers showed off during the Area 17 Polar Plunge Festival.

People came out from all over the state to enjoy the fun day.

People in the crowd said they loved to see the giant crowd, the crazy costumes, and the special ways everyone decided to jump in the water.

But the main reason everyone is here—was to support Michigan’s Special Olympics.

To participate in the plunge individuals needed to raise at least 75 dollars to climb the steps to make the plunge.

Michigan State Police Trooper, Scott Wheler says, “100 percent of the proceeds go to special Olympics.”

The MSP host two events throughout the year to support the Special Olympics of Michigan—the torch run and the polar plunge.

Wheler says, “The Michigan State Police are only directly connected with one charity and that is the Special Olympics.”

Making this a special day for all involved.

Area 17 Director of the Speical Olympics, Tim McDaniel, says, “I started working with students with special needs and that was all it took.”

Tim McDaniel or Tweetie bird (if you saw him dressed up at the event) plunged this year and has been part of Special Olympics for 42 years.

McDaniels says, “They were my family, they were my kids for many years. For a long time I didn’t think I was going to become a father because I didn’t need any cause I already had kids.”

And McDaniel’s proud to say this year they have raised over 60,000 dollars—all going to state and local chapters.

The money will help with things like, “Uniforms, to practice equipment whatever their direct needs are. And half of it goes towards those state competitions that we host for the athletes their food, their lodging, their medals.

Providing students with not only a shot at participating in athletic competitions—but life experiences they’ll never forget!

McDaniels says, “To be honest sometimes the social parts of special Olympics can be even more important than the competitions. We exist to give year round athletic competitions but for some of our students the first time they go away from home is something with Special Olympics.”

And the official total of money raised was $60.5 thousand dollars all from the dedicated community donating to give incredible athletes a once in a life time opportunity!

A truly successful event that everyone is excited to "plunge" into again in 2021.

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