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Polar Plunge returns to the cool pool

Jim’s Plunge Team with Grants Pass Department of Public Safety participate in the 2020 Southern Oregon Polar Plunge at the Rogue Valley Country Club pool in Medford. After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the plunge returns Saturday, Feb. 12. [Submitted photo by Sue McKenna]

After a year of virtual fundraising events that had local first-responders getting frigid at safe distances, the Southern Oregon Polar Plunge will return to its roots later this month.

More than 3,200 local police, firefighters and community members in vibrant costumes are expected to jump into 40-degree water Saturday, Feb. 12, at Medford’s 14th annual Special Olympics Oregon fundraiser at the Rogue Valley Country Club pool, according to organizer Kim Andresen.

Ahead of the event, the Grants Pass police Polar Plunge team will get cold and raise money with a “Dunk a Cop” event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, near the Dutch Bros. stand at 198 SW Sixth St., Grants Pass.

Throws for the dunk tank are $5 each, three for $10 or $25 for a guaranteed dunk, according to a press release about the event. An anonymous donor will match what the police department’s plunge team raises at the event.

Grants Pass police launched the dunk tank event last year as part of a series of virtual and “mini plunge” events for the social distancing era. A Jan. 30 event involved strategically placed fire hoses at the Jackson County Fire District No. 3 training center in White City, while other locals took the plunge at home using ice in their bathtubs.

Despite going virtual, last year’s plunge raised more than $29,000 in Southern Oregon, and $285,000 statewide.

This year’s goal is $40,000 toward a statewide goal of $590,000, according to Andresen.

Andresen said it’s “been a tough year in fundraising,” but they’re looking forward to new teams and new activity this year.

Andresen said it’s been two years since Special Olympics athletes were able to train normally, and the nonprofit is raising money now hoping to get kids back in pools, and back to interacting with other athletes.

“It’s all about the high fives and the smiles and being together,” Andresen said.

Among the new plungers this year will be Southern Oregon University President Richard Bailey. He’ll take the plunge with SOU students — mainly in Oregon Center for the Arts theater and music programs — as part of the SOU Raider Plunge Team.

Another new team this year is the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, which has already raised about $3,000.

Participants need to raise at least $50 to take the plunge, and they will get an event T-shirt. Registration is open until 9 a.m. Feb. 12. To sign up, see plungeoregon.org.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.