Local polar bears to take plunge for charity

Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:45pm

There’s a reason they call the Tennessee Special Olympics winter fundraiser the Polar Bear Plunge — the icy water is cold enough only a polar bear would enjoy taking a dip.

And one of the coldest starts to the year on record likely will make Percy Priest Lake especially chilly for those who take a dip in the waters at Nashville Shores Saturday.

“The water is usually between 38-42 degrees,” said Beth Teegarden, development manager for Tennessee Special Olympics. “As of today, it was a couple degrees colder.”

More than 200 people — including teams from several local high schools, Metro police officers and firefighters — are expected to take part in the 11th annual event that raises about $20,000 annually for Special Olympics.

Many of the plungers — who have collected a minimum of $50 in donations — don all sorts of creative costumes for the event as well.

“We’ve had Xena: Warrior Princess, the Easter Bunny, men in tutus … just a real variety,” Teegarden said, noting some donors challenge participants to wear over-the-top attire for extra donations.

The only prohibited costumes are wetsuits or your birthday suit. This is a family friendly event.

If the thought of plunging into 38-degree water is too much, organizers have set up an ankle-deep chicken pool.

“Chicken” plungers still commit to raising $50 in donations and they receive lunch and a long-sleeved T-shirt just like the diehard dippers.

Up for the challenge? Registration on Saturday will begin at 11 a.m. and the plunge is at noon. Those under 18 must have written consent from a parent/guardian.

Funds from the event are used to provide year-round sports training and competitions for adults and youth with developmental disabilities.