PHOTO GALLERY: Polar Bear Plunge

Saturday, February 14, 2009 | 11:38 p.m. CST; updated 10:35 a.m. CST, Sunday, February 15, 2009
Participants in the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge wait for the signal to enter the 33-degree water at Stephens Lake on Saturday. More than $32,000 was raised by the 285 "plungers."

COLUMBIA — When Scott Drochelman and Cassie Shields participated together for the second time in the Polar Bear Plunge, a yearly fundraising event for Special Olympics Missouri, they took the plunge in more ways than one. A week before the event, which coincidentally fell on Valentine's Day this year, the couple got engaged. Unfortunately for the couple, their recent engagement didn't make the waters any warmer.

"It was cold," Shields said. "It was really, really cold."

Drochelman and Shields were just two of 285 participants to brave the frigid 33-degree waters of Stephens Lake on Saturday, all in the name of raising money for Special Olympics Missouri.

More than $32,000 was raised, not counting the concession and souvenir sales from the event itself. Last year's plunge raised a final total of just over $32,000. Topping last year's total before every dollar had been counted thrilled Columbia Police Captain Zim Schwartz, who is an active Special Olympics Missouri supporter.

"It's all for the athletes," Schwartz said. "It's great to see such excellent community support."

Schwartz does anything she can to donate to Special Olympics Missouri and support its athletes.

"The athletes are just really cool people." Schwartz said.

All proceeds from Columbia's plunge stay in central Missouri and are used to sponsor athletes, pay for uniforms, and organize events throughout the year.

"We try to make the costs for our athletes as close to zero as possible," said Joe Buechter, associate area director for Special Olympics Missouri.

This year marked the fourteenth year for the plunge. Columbia's plunge, now in its second year, is just one of 14 across the state.


Jeffrey Painter, 4, gets a tour of the inside of a fire truck from Columbia firefighter David Haney before the start of the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge at Stephens Lake on Saturday. "We couldn't do the Plunge without the support of the Columbia Police and Fire departments," said Joe Buechter, associate area director for Special Olympics Missouri.
Newly engaged couple Scott Drochelman and Cassie Shields pull themselves up out of the water at Stephens Lake during the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday. It was the second year the couple participated together. "Adrenaline kicks in and it doesn't feel that cold," Drochelman said.
From left, Wade Roberts, Erynn Hesler and Lauren Mattson wait for the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge to start. Teams were encouraged to wear themed costumes, such as State Farm Insurance's "Down on the Farm" theme.
Members of the MU gymnastics team hurry out of the water at Stephens Lake on Saturday after participating in the Polar Bear Plunge to raise funds for Special Olympics Missouri.
Participants of the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge were greeted by frigid 33-degree water in Stephens Lake. The event raised money for Special Olympics Missouri, and all $32,000 stays in central Missouri to fund athletes and events.

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Karen Mitchell February 15, 2009 | 12:01 p.m.

Matthew Cavanah's lead photo is really nice. Just further proves that these people are crazy nuts!

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