Engineering sophomore Andrew Pintar and Business sophomore Zoe Chang participate in the Polar Plunge for University of Michigan Special Olympics at U-M’s Sports Coliseum Lot Sunday. Ruby Klawans/Daily. Buy this photo.

About 40 University of Michigan students gathered at the Sports Coliseum for the University’s first-ever Polar Plunge Sunday morning. The event was hosted by Cool Schools Polar Plunge, which hosts similar events across high schools and colleges in the state of Michigan to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan

The University’s polar plunge is part of a fundraising competition against The Ohio State University’s Special Olympics chapter in the week leading up to the schools’ rivalry football game on Nov. 25. All money raised by participating U-M students will go toward year-round sports training and athletic competitions for the more than 23,000 people with intellectual disabilities in Michigan.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, LSA freshman Emma Jonas said she decided to participate because of her personal connection to the Special Olympics.

“We saw one of the posters for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge last weekend in East Quad,” Jonas said. “The Special Olympics means a lot to me and my family because my older brother is autistic and has participated in the Special Olympics. I just know how much it’s meant to him. To be able to be at a fundraiser for the Special Olympics really means a lot to me.”

Engineering junior Christian Novy told The Daily he attended the event after hearing about it through his involvement with the SCT Aerospace Honor Society. Plungers at the event were encouraged to wear fun costumes and shoes for the plunge and bring a towel to prepare for their submersion into a 4-foot tank of 36-degree water. 

Novy said he did little to prepare for the event but was hopeful he would feel warmer when he got out of the water, with the temperature outside hovering around 41 degrees.

“(I did) absolutely nothing,” Novy said. “(I) packed a bag of clothes and a pair of shoes. The goal is that it is warmer when you come out.”

LSA freshman Leah Zerwitz attended Sunday’s event with Jonas and told The Daily she not only wanted to support her friend, but also families across the state of Michigan.

“(I) just wanted to come here to support her and her family and do something fun and for other people this morning,” Zerwitz said.

LSA junior Matt Gagnon, a member of the Michigan Adaptive Track and Field Team, told The Daily he was motivated to take the plunge because the mission of the Special Olympics aligns with his own beliefs and experiences.

“The Special Olympics are similar to my aspirations with going to the Paralympics, and so I always like to be active in the disability space,” Gagnon said. “If we bring more awareness to it, then hopefully, there will be more resources for people.”

Daily Staff Reporter Ellen Drejza can be reached at