First-time freezing: Fraternity hosts campus Polar Plunge



By Audrey Smith

Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity made a splash Saturday hosting the first Polar Plunge on a college campus in Kentucky.

At the 2011 Campus Plunge fundraising event, participants dressed in costumes and jumped into ice-cold water to raise money for the Fayette County Special Olympics.

The event was put together by the fraternity’s Philanthropy Chair, Seth Fortenbery, and Special Olympics Coordinator Dylan Murphy. It raised about $4,000, with donations still coming in during the event, Fortenbery said.

“As it is the first year, we just want to raise awareness and get the word out,” Fortenbery said. “This is something that could really explode on this campus.”

The Polar Plunge attracted about 65 participants. Some were dressed in costumes, and they jumped in groups or jumped individually.

One of the participants, junior Austin Yates, dressed as Santa Claus. He heard about Campus Plunge through his fraternity, Sigma Chi.

“It’s not as bad as anyone makes it out to be and it’s for a great cause,” Yates said. He is familiar with Polar Plunges because he participated in them often in high school as a member of Junior Achievement in Bowling Green, Ky.

Music was played throughout the event to keep viewers engaged and participants fired up.

It also came in handy when several women from Alpha Phi Sorority took the stage dressed as iPods and danced their way into the pool one at a time.

Athletes from the Kentucky Special Olympics program, along with Dennis Gaines, the vice president of the Fayette County Advisory Board for Special Olympics, also attended.

Gaines, also a coordinator and coach of several different sports in the program, commended the partnership between Special Olympics Kentucky and Phi Sigma Kappa, which started last year with flag football.

Gaines has a son who is special needs, he said he loves being around the 300 or so athletes in the Special Olympics who are registered in Fayette County.

“I’ve met great people,” Gaines said. “It’s a humbling experience.”

Trish Mazzoni, the executive vice president of Special Olympics Kentucky, was also at the event.

Every Special Olympics program in the country does Polar Plunges, Mazzoni said.

The unique event has a 15-year history as a “Special Olympics trademark,” she said.

Fortenbery and Murphy hope they can make this event an annual success on UK’s campus by raising money and awareness for special needs athletes.