Polar Plunge to be bigger than ever
The Titanic will sink into Lake Tahoe Saturday and passengers of the faux passenger ship will take a dip in the chilly waters both for fun and a good cause.
“It’s gotten crazy this year,” said Joyce Whitney-Silva, whose team from Greater Nevada Credit Union is doing a Titanic theme for Saturday’s Polar Plunge.
Nearly 500 people in a multitude of costumes are expected to charge into Zephyr Cove’s 43-degree water to raise funds for Special Olympics athletes in Northern California and Nevada. Event organizers are saying this year could be the largest crowd yet for the Polar Plunge.
“Every year it has just gotten larger and larger and larger,” said Jody Filgro, who helped organize the first event eight years ago. “I want to set a goal. Five years from now, we’ll have 1,000 people.”
With a minimum of $125 donation for each plunger, this year’s total is already topping $60,000. Some teams have raised more than $10,000. All of the money goes to support Special Olympics programs for 17,000 athletes in Northern California and Nevada.
Plunges are held nationwide to benefit the Special Olympics. It’s the Northern California and Nevada branch’s single biggest fundraiser.
This year’s plunge will be met with blustery weather. Heavy snow is forecasted for Saturday, but organizers are planning on going ahead.
“It’s going to be a much different plunge with what the elements are going to bring,” said Special Olympics spokeswoman Ilisa Kessler.
Whitney-Silva remembers last year’s event, which was also under snowy skies.
“I always promise to people that we won’t have bad weather two years in a row,” Whitney-Silva said. “I think I’m losing credibility on that one.”
Since its inception, the Polar Plunge has always been a costumed event. Cows, bikini-clad men, vikings, doctors in scrubs, superheroes and fire marshals have all dunked. Each year, the outfits get a little more elaborate, Filgro said.
“We’ve had so many wild costumes over the years,” she said. “One woman fit into her 20-year-old wedding dress.”
The Greater Nevada Credit Union chose the Titanic theme because it’s the 100th anniversary year of the ship’s sinking. They’ve recreated the Titanic, complete with smokestacks and life jackets. Whitney-Silva was thinking of going as the iceberg, she said.
Of their 150 employees at the Greater Nevada Credit Union, 115 of them will participate in the bone-chilling fundraiser. That barely leaves enough people to staff the banks the morning of the event, Whitney-Silva said.
“It used to be that when we first got into fundraising, we would just write checks,” she said. “Then we wanted to get our people involved.”
The team does fundraisers all year for the Special Olympics program, culminating in the Polar Plunge. Though it is bitter cold, it also feels good, Whitney-Silva said.
“It’s just incredible to see people from the community come together to support the athletes,” she said.