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Freezing for a Good Cause! The 14th Annual ‘Polar Plunge’ to Benefit Special Olympics

By Paul T. Choate

Feb. 17, 2012. BOONE –- The 14th annual Polar Plunge was held on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the Duck Pond on the campus of Appalachian State University. 142 “Plungers” lined up to brave the near-freezing water and $7,903 was raised to benefit the Watauga County Special Olympics.

Prizes were awarded for the most extreme male and female costumes, the top fundraising group and the top fundraising individual.

The winner for the most extreme male costume was Benjamin Franklin, dressed as the scantily-clad “Flashing Santa.” The female most extreme costume winner was Courtney Armstrong, as the “Punk Daisy Cart.”

The top fundraising group was the ASU Sports Management class, raising $1,587. Additionally, the ASU ROTC raised $595, good for second among groups. Stacey Critcher raised the most money individually, totaling $110.

The 39 degree water temperature was not as “polar” as it had been in recent past Plunges. Participants still felt the chill, however, with looks of shock on many of their faces when their heads emerged from the water.

Asked to describe the experience, Chris Westgard, 22, a May 2011 graduate from ASU, said, “Cold! Cold – there’s no other word. It’s a shock man. It slowed my breathing for a second.”

Westgard, a first time “Plunger,” said he intended to participate in the last two Polar Plunges but school and work had not allowed for it.

He went on to say, “This is probably my last couple of months in Boone so I figured I might as well do it. It’s for a good cause, so why not?” He also added, through trembling lips, this would probably be his last time leaping into the Duck Pond.

The nearly $8,000 raised by the event is an unofficial total, according to Keron J. Poteat, coordinator of the Watauga County Special Olympics.

“It’s unofficial because I know that we still have money coming in from corporate sponsors. So, the good news is that the total will only be getting bigger,” she said.

“Despite the dreary start to the day, it was a successful and splashing success!”

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Photos by Paul T. Choate.