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‘It’s super-exciting’: Some 200 hardy souls brave the cold Deschutes in Bend’s annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

(Update: Adding video, comments from plunge manager, retired Sunriver police officer)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --  On a fittingly cold yet somewhat sunny Saturday morning, dozens of law enforcement and others braced for the chilly conditions, ready to get into the water for the Bend Polar Plunge.

"It's super-exciting," retired Sunriver police officer Kecia Weaver said. "When we started in '07, it was very primitive, with not a whole lot of people."

Special Olympics Oregon, the state's premier sports organization for individuals with intellectual disabilities, hosted its 18th Annual Bend Polar Plunge at Riverbend Park. 

The plunge's manager, Jayme Vanerden, told us about Special Olympics Oregon: "It supports 5,000 athletes across the state to participate in multiple sports, swimming, bowling, powerlifting" and many more.

The organization's goal is to have athletes gain self-confidence and develop physical fitness. 

Hundreds of people came out to support the cause.

Vanerden said," Bend is special, that people started actually started registering actually saw, once we saw it was going to be a snow day. So we've had over 200 registrations this week alone."

The event started with a 5-K run, followed by a costume contest, where many people dressed up in all sorts of fun ways. And then people, much braver than me, jumped into the water for the Polar Plunge and Puppy Plunge. 

 Weaver, who recently retired from the Sunriver Police force, brought the first Polar Plunge to Bend.

"Central Oregon law enforcement is proud to partner with Special Olympics Oregon, and do what we can to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics athletes," she said.

The goal is to raise $75,000, and Special Olympics Oregon will be fundraising until the end of March.

Polar Plunge events create unforgettable memories while positively impacting the lives of Special Olympics Oregon athletes. Special Olympics Oregon serves over 5,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities year-round and statewide through life changing sports, wellness and engagement, resulting in meaningful health benefits and cultures of inclusion.

“Bend has such a stunning Plunge site and we’ve had the event in both a winter wonderland and with blue bird skies.  Bend always keeps us on our toes, but the one thing we can count on are the incredible people – it’s such a special community and we are so grateful for the longstanding support we receive,” said Britt Oase, CEO of Special Olympics Oregon.

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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