For several years now, I’ve watched those dedicated individuals brave the frigid February water in Weevil Pond to raise money for Special Olympics. So this year, I decided to do it myself. Friday night at 8 p.m. I dove into Weevil Pond to help Karen Caldwell and her husband, Jason, by taking one of their 24 plunges.
I can’t attest to the water temperature on Saturday but I can assure you that water was freezing Friday night. While it was cold – very cold, getting my feet stuck in the mud was even worse. My feet began to sink into the mud causing me to lose balance and fall back into the water as I turned to walk back toward the pond bank.
Jason and Karen plunge every hour for 24 hours leading up to the final Saturday plunge at the annual Area 12 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics when dozens of costumed characters from Southeast Arkansas jump into the water to raise money for Special Olympics.
This year, Area 12, which includes Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Dallas, Desha and Drew counties, raised $12,740 through plunge donations, a desert auction and the sale of chili and t-shirts.
Prior to the plunge, awards were presented to individuals and teams with the best costumes and those who raised the most money. The Drew County Sheriff’s Office won the fundraising award in the community division, raising $3,000. Reggie Riley, who promised to dress up as a drag queen if he raised $1,000, met his goal and received the individual fundraising award in the community division. While Riley did keep his promise and plunge in drag, he didn’t win the individual costume award; that went to Bill Kinzie, a Dallas County resident who dressed as the Roman emperor Caligula.
The team costume award went to South Arkansas Rehabilitation for their Fintstones costumes. They even had a replica of Fred’s footmobile.
The awards were presented in two divisions, the University of Arkansas-Monticello (UAM) division and a community division.
Winners in the UAM division were Alpha Sigma Alpha, the top fundraising team; Jay Hughes, the top fundraising individual; Wildmen, the best team costume; and Priscilla Butler, a “zombie” representing Sigma Sigma Sigma, had the best individual costume.
Guerrilla Martial Arts and Fitness won an award for having the youngest team plunging.
The event was organized by Area 12 Special Olympics co-directors Karen Caldwell and Ked Donham, who plunged with the Drew County Sheriff’s Department team.