President Rick Bailey will support Special Olympics with a "Polar Plunge."

President Bailey, SOU Raiders, make splash for Special Olympics

SOU President Rick Bailey will join other members of the campus community this year as they “take the plunge” as part of a local benefit for Special Olympics Oregon.

Bailey will line up Saturday morning on the edge of the unheated, outdoor pool at Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford with students from the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU. Bailey and other members of the team will jump into the pool – whose water temperature is expected to be about 44 degrees – as part of the annual Southern Oregon Polar Plunge. More than a dozen SOU Raiders are expected to participate in the event, which is free and open to the public.

“Although I am not a fan of jumping into cold bodies of water, I am a HUGE fan of Special Olympics and the wonderful things that organization does,” President Bailey said. “I’m excited to help bring awareness to a great and worthwhile cause.”

Polar Plunge for Special OlympicsAn SOU contingent joins hundreds of other teams made up of students, law enforcement, gyms, corporate partners and thrill seekers across the state each February to make an icy dip. Proceeds from the events provide uniforms, sports equipment, and regional and national travel opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

“My sister and I are both plunging this year,” said Elena Patterson, a senior music major at SOU. “Our brother is a below-the-knee amputee and he has dyslexia. He’s 15 and a freshman at AHS. I like plunging every year because it’s a fun event. You show up and everyone is nervous but excited and finally it’s your turn to go up and the water is so cold! But everyone is cold together. Can’t wait!”

Raiders have been plunging for three years in-person, and students participated virtually last year because of the pandemic. Martin Bichinsky, a sophomore music major at SOU, plunged for the cause at home by submitting a video of himself being doused with a bucket of ice water in his backyard.

SOU alumnus Jared Brown ’17, the Youth Orchestra Manager with Pacific Symphony in Los Angeles, is sponsoring two students by donating $100.

“I continue to support Special Olympics year after year out of love for my cousin, Thomas, who lives with non-verbal autism and aphasia,” Brown said. “I greatly appreciate the effort folks exhibit through activities like Polar Plunge as they bring awareness and visibility to those living in our communities with special needs.”

Another alum, Jayme Dittberner ’21, a teacher at Talent Middle School said, “I like plunging because I love having the opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics athletes. It’s really amazing to see so many people in the community coming together for something so important. It’s been a lot of fun the last two years that I’ve done it, and I know how much of an impact we are making by participating in the event.”

The SOU community can join the SOU Raider team by plunging, donating or coming out to watch the event. The Southern Oregon Polar Plunge begins with registration at 9 a.m., costume contest at 10:30 a.m., and opening ceremonies and the plunge at 11 a.m. For more information, contact event manager Kim Andresen, or go to