COLUMBIA — For the team called the Preston Superheroes, this year's Polar Plunge was a way to honor a father and a friend.
The annual event, in its fifth year, supports Special Olympics Missouri and saw about 430 people, many in costumes, plunge into the water at Stephens Lake Park.
Preston Sights was a big supporter of Special Olympics Missouri and did the Polar Plunge every year, his daughter Tory Sights said.
But in June, he died of cancer. Tory Sights and friends of her father decided to carry on the tradition on his behalf and formed a team called the Preston Superheroes. Preston Sights had always dressed as a superhero for past plunges.
"I'm doing this for him," Tory Sights said. "If he was still alive, he'd be doing it right now. I think it's a healthy way to remember him. All of the donations go to local athletes and I think that's cool. He was big into supporting the local community."
She dressed as a female version of the Hulk in memory of her father.
"I decided to be She-Hulk," she said. "One year he was a Viking and another year he was Rocky Balboa. But his favorite superhero was the Incredible Hulk."
Other members of the Preston Superheroes were Superman, Superwoman and Catwoman. Two others decided to dress up as Preston Sights himself, one in formal attire and another as a "casual Preston."
Julie Whitesides, who dressed as Catwoman, said this was the first time she participated in the plunge.
"I worked with Preston for six or seven years," she said. "He always put others first and wanted to do good for the community. It's a great cause and we're glad to do it in a wonderful man's memory."
Jon Diekmann also worked with Preston Sights at The Outsource Group in Columbia.
"Preston was like a father figure for me," Diekmann said. "No matter the time or place, he'd be the first person to help you out. He always was into the community and helping out with the Special Olympics."
Colin Smialek, another member of the Preston Superheroes, said they were able to raise about $1,200 as a group.
"Preston was very fond of Special Olympics Missouri," he said. "Every time we get together we think about Preston and what he meant to us."
Although final fundraising numbers won't be released until next week, Special Olympics Missouri Central Area Director Diane Brimer said more than $70,000 had already been raised.