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Pittsburg, Joplin to host fundraising events to benefit Special Olympic athletes

Joplin Globe - 1/20/2020

Jan. 19--Every year, participants throughout the nation splash into frigid waters to raise money for thousands of Special Olympic athletes and while Pittsburg's event is scheduled next month, Joplin's won't be held until later this fall.

Special Olympics Kansas has announced its local Polar Plunge event to be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Crimson Villas pool, 1904 S. Rouse St. in Pittsburg. This year's plunge follows the theme "Roaring 20s," with participants encouraged to dress in costumes.

Registration and check-in begins at 9 a.m., with the costume contest slated for 11:30 a.m. and the plunge at noon. Prizes will be awarded for best costume, top fundraisers and the team with the most participants.

Erin Fletcher, director of grants and development for Special Olympics Kansas, said the organization held one of its most successful plunges last year in Pittsburg, raising approximately $20,000. Kansas has more than 4,000 Special Olympics athletes.

"We have one of the most successful plunges in Kansas because we have such great support from the community," said Fletcher. "If you think of the size, we're not a Kansas City or a Wichita, but we have such great support. This plunge is our regional Polar Plunge too."

Pittsburg's Polar Plunge is held in conjunction with the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Kansas. The torch run raises awareness and funds for Special Olympics and connects law enforcement officers with Special Olympics athletes. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is usually held in the spring.

From 2012 to 2015, Pittsburg was the top law enforcement fundraising agency in Kansas. In 2016, the Pittsburg Police Department raised more than $31,000, and held the second-place position after the Topeka Police Department.

Joplin

Instead of having a Polar Plunge event in February, Joplin is having a Great Pumpkin Splash Festival on Saturday, Oct. 24, at Rivers Bend Campground to help raise money for Special Olympic athletes in Missouri.

Joplin's Polar Plunge was discontinued after 2018 because of low participation numbers, according to Robin Anderson, development director of Special Olympics Missouri.

"It was one of those things that we looked at year after year, and it just wasn't growing," she said. "We wanted to do something that was a little different with better attendance."

The Great Pumpkin Splash Festival was created in its place to help make up for the gap in fundraising. The festival includes a plunge, food vendors and an auction. Great Pumpkin Splash participants are encouraged to raise a minimum of $50.

Last year, Anderson said Joplin raised over $11,000 for Special Olympics Missouri.

"We're doing our own little twist on the Polar Plunge here, and we decided it to make it more of a fall festival," she said. "We're hoping this will become a larger event for us. We tried to turn it around and make it at a different time of the year and a different atmosphere."

Pittsburg Polar Plunge

Online registration for the Pittsburg Polar Plunge can be completed at plungeks.org/pittsburg. Entry for the Polar Plunge is $75. Everyone who raises $75 is entered to win a cash prize through a sweepstakes, which is new this year.

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