Saturday was a pleasant morning and the water not as cold as expected as 142 participants plunged into the North Platte River for the annual Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics.
When the announcement came afterward, the ninth annual Polar Plunge had raised its second highest total — an estimated $34,130. That was only a few hundred less than Lincoln, a city nine times as large.
“Jumping into a cold river isn’t exactly fun, but I’m doing it gladly for Special Olympics,” Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman said. “It’s a great organization that’s worth our support.”
Overman helps organize the event and, along with sheriff’s office personnel and other law enforcement, has gone into the river every winter for the plunge.
Members of the Key Club, Scottsbluff High School’s Kiwanis group, were looking forward to jumping into the river.
“We participate in events like this for part of our community service,” member Josie Amoo said. “It’s a lot of fun and we’re supporting a great organization.”
She added it was a nice morning on the river, but wasn’t sure how cold the river would be. As it turned out, the water wasn’t as frigidly cold as the previous year, which included ice floes.
Captain Jason Rogers with the Gering Police Department has only missed one Polar Plunge, when he was out of town on the day of the event.
“This event helps raise everyone’s awareness about Special Olympics,” Rogers said. “They’re just great people and a lot fun to hang out with.”
Rogers said the key to success at the Polar Plunge is to keep moving — “Get in and get out fast.”
Taking his second plunge into the river was Scottsbluff Mayor Ray Gonzales, dressed in ninja attire for the event.
“I wanted to show my support for Special Olympics and this is a great way to do it,” Gonzales said. “The river looks really cold, but I’m ready for it.”
Gonzales took to the river along with another great organization he supports: the Reconnect Renovators.
After the plungers dried off, members and families from the Scotts Bluff County Thunder Special Olympics group had lunch ready for them. Also joining them were representatives from the state office in Omaha.
Judges did a good-natured contest of the plunging performances. Taking first place among the Polar Plunge teams with a perfect 30 possible points was Mystery Inc., members of the Nebraska State Patrol. Prisoners on Ice, a team made up of Special Olympians, took second with 27 points, followed by Justice Juggernauts with 25.
Fourth through sixth place teams tied with 24 points. They were WNCC Power Line, Largo’s Angels and TV Sitcom Polar Plungers.
Tied for seventh and eighth place, with 23 points each, were Reconnect Renovators and the Scottsbluff High School Circle of Friends.
Ninth and 10th place was a tie with the Star-Herald Newsies and the “Numb”Bells, both scoring 21 points.
Eleventh and 12 places were also a 20-point tie with the Allo Narwhals team and Sarah Leonard making a solo plunge into the river.