After making it through January’s polar vortex, about 420 members of the Ann Arbor community decided it was a good time for a swim.

Dressed in an array of costumes, participants dove into an icy pool for the University’s second annual Polar Plunge. The event was held at Michigan Stadium and aimed to support Special Olympics Michigan.

Special Olympics Michigan is an international organization that provides training and competition opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Sarah Henry, the development and events coordinator for the state’s chapter of the organization, said the money raised through the Polar Plunge allows special Olympics athletes to participate for free in the group’s events.

Throughout the winter, the Michigan branch of the organization holds 30 Polar Plunge events around the state and raises about $1 million from all the plunges combined. This year’s Big House plunge was the second largest event in Michigan and raised about $130,000.

“It’s one of those life things you participate in,” Henry said. “Some people run marathons and other people want to jump into freezing cold water in the middle of winter to raise money.”

While participants can jump individually, many people formed teams to fundraise throughout the year and take the plunge together.

A team from the University’s Galens Medical Society raised $37,000 through a bake sale and soliciting donations from friends, Medical student Christina Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento and Medical student Rashmi Patil participated in a Polar Plunge in Belleville last year and ran into the Big House with the team from the Galens Medical Society.

“This year, it feels like we’re doing it at home,” Patil said. “It’s a pretty nice day I think for a dip. The sun is shining and it’s above freezing.”

In addition to the plunge, the event consisted of a costume parade with teams and individuals wearing costumes ranging from Superman, hula girls and Speedo-clad men. Former Michigan football players Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs, as well as Michigan coach Brady Hoke served as the judges for the costume contest.

Many participants cannonballed, belly-flopped and flipped into the water. However, as soon as they resurfaced, participants ran quickly back into the locker rooms to change and dry off.

“You forget how cold it is,” Nursing freshman Ashley Richmond said. “You jump in and your body goes into shock but it wears off really fast and it was a lot of fun.”

After drying off and warming up, participants were provided a warm lunch in the Jack Roth Stadium Club.

“A lot of people think it’s really intimidating getting in the water but it’s for a really good cause and there’s a lot of great people that come out here to do it,” Richmond said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely worth it.”

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