With the air temperature struggling to reach 20 degrees the Salina Polar Plunge lived up to its name on Saturday. A group of hearty volunteers took an icy dip as a large group of well-wishes cheered them on.
The Salina Polar Plunge event to help support Kansas Special Olympics was held at GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness in Salina. After holding the event for the last several years north of Salina at the Webster Conference Center they decided to do things a bit different this year and move into town at GreatLIFE.
The event featured an entire morning of activities, including a “Polar 5k” run. About 20 runners competed on a unique course which circled around the GreatLIFE golf course. Runners ranged in age from 8-years-old to 74-years-old. When the race started it was a cold 15 degrees.
The main event of the day was a plunge into a freezing cold, giant tank of water provided by Rural Fire District #5. Salina Fire and EMS were standing by as a precaution.
Each person who took the plunge was motivated by donations from friends and family. Many were dressed in colorful costumes, to the delight of the crowd.
Prior to the plunge there was a costume contest, where awards were given for best individual and best group costumes. Awards for most money raised by an individual, most money raised by a team, and largest team were also handed out.
Ryan Batchman, a 6th grade teacher in Sylvan Grove, raised the most money individually. With the help of his students he raised a little over $500 this year. Batchman jumps on behalf of his students. They help him raise funds, and in return he wears a costume that they design. Last year he was a Duane Johnson inspired “Tooth Fairy.” This year he was President Donald Trump.
Teams from the Salina Walmart store and the Salina Police Department raised the most money, each raising a nearly identical amount at around $3,200.
Along with raising the most money as an individual Batchman also won the award for best individual costume.
Best group costume went to Todd Heidschmidt, Claire Serrault, and Mitch Guthrie, AKA “Team Ice Ice Baby.” The trio dressed as two bags of ice and a baby.
Overall, the event Saturday raised over $10,000, with more money still anticipated. All proceeds from the Polar Plunge go to benefit Kansas Special Olympics.