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Published: Monday, 1/13/2014

MONROE

Polar Plunge to raise funds for Special Olympics

Annual event features costume competition

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Carlton Carlton
HANDOUT. NOT BLADE PHOTO. Enlarge

MONROE — Last year, Christiaan Carlton wore the briefest of Speedo swimsuits for his participation in the Polar Plunge, to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan. This year, he said, he’ll wear more outrageous swimwear to collect funds for the same good cause.

“My outfit will be a little different this year, but should be a crowd pleaser,” the Monroe resident said. “It’s sort of a Daisy Duke costume, with very short cut-off jeans.”

The 2014 Polar Plunge is scheduled for Sunday at Jack’s Lawn Service, 15550 Garden Stone Drive, Monroe. The plunge is at 2 p.m., with registration beginning an hour earlier.

Registration is $75 for adults and $50 for students. Online registration can be done by visiting firstgiving.com/​polarplunge/​monroe2014.

Last year’s plunge was a bit of a fiasco as far as the actual plunge was concerned, said Stacie Ourlian, director of the Special Olympics in Monroe County.

A strong wind blew the water away from the plunge area at Riverfront Marina on East Elm Avenue and organizers were forced, with the help of Monroe firefighters, to improvise with an inflatable plastic pool, which cracked in the cold weather.

The 2013 event was a success in the end, however, raising $22,000 and attracting 176 plungers. Then, as will be done this year, the money was evenly split between Special Olympics Michigan and the group’s Monroe County chapter. The Special Olympics is a nonprofit that provides sports opportunities for people with cognitive impairments.

This year, the plunge will be done in a five-foot deep pond on the lawn service company’s grounds.

“It’s a beautiful pond and we’ll be jumping off of a dock,” Ms. Ourlian said, adding that all participants will receive a long-sleeve shirt, hot chocolate, doughnuts, coffee, and pizza.

Anyone who is middle school age or older can be a plunger, but youngsters need a parental waiver, said Ms. Ourlian, who is a teacher assigned to Monroe Middle School.

Monroe’s Polar Plunge is distinguished by its costume contest that gives out a Golden Plunger Award for the best costume.

Mr. Carlton said he wore his minimalist Speedo last year because it attracted more money from sponsors.

The experience, he said, was memorable.

He became interested in raising money for the Special Olympics through his wife, Stephanie Carlton, who works for Head Start and formerly was a staffer at the Intermediate School District, where she came into contact with special needs children.

“I think waiting in line in the Speedo was just as shocking as jumping into the pool,” he recalled.

“I jumped out, got a blanket, and put on some sweats in a hurry. But people agreed to pay more if I wore a Speedo, and it was worth it.”



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