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‘Plunge’ goes from Polar to Solar

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Mercy Flights members and explorers take the plunge Saturday for Special Olympics at the Rogue Valley Country Club. Photo by Denise Baratta
Jackson County Sheriff's Office members participate in Saturday's Polar Plunge at the Rogue Valley County Club. Photo by Denise Baratta
South Medford High School Key Club members jump for Special Olympics during Saturday's Polar Plunge event at the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford. Photo by Denise Baratta
Warm temperatures greet those diving for cold cash for Southern Oregon Special Olympics

Some of the volunteers grinned Saturday morning as they added big bags of ice to the Rogue Valley Country Club pool where about 200 people participated in the 14th annual Southern Oregon Polar Plunge.

It was roughly 15 degrees warmer than normal for a mid-February day. Organizers wanted to ensure the water didn’t reach 45 degrees.

Otherwise “it wouldn’t be a Polar if it was warm,” according to Kim Andresen, organizer of the event.

Area police and firefighters joined with community members — many in whimsical costumes — to jump into the cold water to help raise money for Southern Oregon Special Olympics. COVID-19 kept these athletes from being able to train normally in 2021.

“It’s an amazing organization,” said Grants Pass Police Capt. Jim Hamilton, who was also one of the judges for the costume contest that preceded the plunging.

Grants Pass Police raised $9,000 total this year for the local organization. That included a dunk-a-thon that brought in nearly $5,300.

He plunged with other members of his department as well.

Hamilton said he also finds time to be a karate coach. Karate and other martial arts are considered good ways to teach young people such virtues as patience, discipline and ethics.

“Those kids can learn a lot about sportsmanship from the Special Olympics kids,” he also said.

The Clackamas Federal Credit Union raised $45,000 statewide. Employees dressed as members of the 1970s Glam rock band KISS for this Special Olympics event and participate in these Special Olympics fundraisers across Oregon.

Andresen said this local event is unique because most others across the state use rivers.

“It takes a full commitment,” she said.

Another costume judge was Medford Police Officer Jim Ashworth.

“The water was probably as cold as it ever was, but the weather is magnificent,” Ashworth said after the department’s jump.

Oregon State Police Officer Travis Lee said he counted his collection of T-shirts from past Polar plunges and guessed that he has been involved with several of these events.

He came to the Central Point office in 2015 and saw that the Police Plunge was a good opportunity to support local youths with disabilities.

Among athletes attending this year’s Special Olympics USA games in Orlando, Florida, is Medford resident Sean See.

The swimmer didn’t jump Saturday but is involved in Special Olympics competitions year-round. Along with swimming, he also golfs and snowboards, he said.

See said he was happy to be involved this year. Last year there were no games, except for some virtual activities.

Another Special Olympics athlete, Michael Degler of Gold Hill, raised $3,000.