UK students take the plunge for Special Olympics Kentucky


Kernel Lifestyle Sig

Addison Lander

People walking on the sidewalk near the corner of Hilltop Ave. and Woodland Ave. last Thursday were greeted with a crowd of people gathered around a flatbed trailer, cheering as students jumped from it into a pool of cold water. 

This gathering was the ninth annual Campus Plunge, a fundraiser put on by Phi Sigma Kappa and, for the first time, Delta Zeta in support of Special Olympics Kentucky.

Special Olympics Kentucky is an organization devoted to including children and adults with intellectual disabilities in individual and team sports, giving them proper and consistent training to best meet their needs while they play and compete.

In the words of Special Events Director Taylor Ballinger, “We believe sports change lives.”

The organization hosts a total of seven “Polar Plunges” in various locations around the state, and according to Ballinger, it is their biggest fundraiser.

“We’ve been doing Polar Plunge for over 20 years in some form or fashion,” Ballinger said, adding that it has become their signature fundraiser of sorts.

Ballinger said that the seven events raise an approximate total of $500,000 each year, adding that the funds go directly to keeping the core programs cost-free or as low as possible to ensure that the families of the athletes do not have to pay to enroll them.

This year’s UK Campus Plunge raised over $19,000, with one student alone contributing over $3,000 towards that total.

Event coordinator and Phi Sigma Kappa member Ryan Flanigan said that in order to participate in the actual plunge, each Phi Sigma Kappa brother had to raise at least $100, and everyone else interested in jumping had to raise $35.

Flanigan added that the Campus Plunge is Phi Sigma Kappa’s “pinnacle event,” and that planning for each event starts as soon as the preceding one finishes. 

At Thursday night’s plunge, each group dressed up as a theme and awards were given for the best team theme.

A team from Delta Zeta won the awards, the Golden Plungers, for their pajama theme. Other groups who dressed in construction gear, basketball jerseys, and Hawaiian clothing.

Prior to the jumping, Special Olympics Kentucky managed to present a few of its participants, who got to introduce themselves and speak a bit about what they have managed to accomplish through the program.

Ryan Flanigan, who is a sophomore studying business and accounting, said that he was “nervous to jump, but excited.”

Will Rohr, a Phi Sigma Kappa member and senior studying management, noted that the plunge was physically painful for his first time, but that it was for a good cause: Phi Sigma Kappa has a lot of brothers invested in sports, and so they like to support this organization that incorporates sports into helping an under-served community.

In total, there were about 50 fundraisers from Phi Sigma Kappa alone, and just as many from other participating fraternities, sororities, and other organizations.