SOU at Special Olympics polar plunge

SOU Raiders make a big splash for Special Olympics

The SOU Raiders were freezin’ for a reason last weekend in support of the 16th annual Southern Oregon Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Oregon, held March 2 at the Rogue Valley Country Club. The SOU Raider team consisted of 16 SOU students, one faculty member and three staff members who donned their red and black attire and took the plunge into the outdoor, unheated pool.

The Raiders were supported by donations from President Rick Bailey, SOU faculty, staff and friends of the university, who raised more than $2,000 for the cause. Participants showed up despite four inches of snow on the ground and near-freezing temperatures to get cold for the cause.

Participants were: Christina Martin, SOU board coordinator/legal assistant; Sam Hayes-Hicks, faculty, Creative Arts; Russell Copley, director of the Oregon Fringe Festival; Reed Bentley, SOU alum and director of the Maraval Road Steel Drum Band; and SOU students Shannon Jackson, Jared Rountree, Ryan McGinley, Clarisa Spevack, Camper Pillifant, Gianna McCardell, Jirapreeya Buranathamawat, Alexandra Carwithen, Cedar Berndt and Isaac Glace. All braved the close-to-freezing water with Kim Andresen, team captain, and Southern Oregon Plunge event manager.

Besides those plunging, members of SOU’s Maraval Road Steel Drum Band provided bright and tropical tunes that livened up the early morning event, where participants registered and walked around visiting community organization tables. In addition, Rocky Raider was on hand to high-five and greet participants right alongside event sponsor Rogue Credit Union’s “Wally the Wolf” and the Special Olympics Polar Bear “Polly.”

As hundreds of people took the plunge, the SOU Raider Drumline featured percussion students from the SOU music department, who drum rolled people into the chilly water as the cold, but engaged audience counted down.

“I’m so grateful to the SOU Raider Family that has supported this event for the past 7 years,” said Kim Andresen, event manager. “The cold is temporary, but the impact on the athletes lasts all year. Raising community awareness, support and money for athletes with disabilities across the state is a real game-changer.”

The fundraiser had record-breaking attendance with over 500 people and more than 300 participants who braved the cold water.  In addition, a total of more than $82,000 was raised, surpassing 2023’s high of $63,000. Proceeds from the event support local athletes from Klamath, Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties, and provides uniforms, sports equipment, regional and national competition travel opportunities, wellness and nutrition programs, and connection with the community for athletes with disabilities.

Photo by Tami Lee