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Charity plunge raises money for Special Olympics Missouri

By Andrew Denney, Columbia Daily Tribune

1035 days ago   Article ID# 1459002
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Special Olympics Missouri

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI (Columbia Daily Tribune) - With clear skies and temperatures in the high 40s yesterday afternoon, participants in the 5th annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge at Stephens Lake Park were treated to more pleasant weather than in past years.

But California resident Abby Graham said although organizers did not have to break out chainsaws this year to clear an opening through a frozen lake, observers should make no mistake: Taking the plunge still is nothing like taking a warm bath.

"Let's not downplay the seriousness of what's about to happen," Graham said.

She and several of her co-workers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol's crime lab were dressed like Treasure Trolls.

Peculiar costumes are part of the pageantry of the event, in which organizers ask participants give a $75 minimum donation to splash in the chilly water. Donations go to support Special Olympics Missouri, which holds plunges at various locations throughout the state.

Diane Brimer, central area coordinator for Special Olympics Missouri, said the event attracted 430 participants this year, an increase of 24 from last year.

Brimer said the event raised $61,405, and she said donations will be collected through the end of March on the organization's website. She said the organization managed to raise more than $67,000 last year, and it hopes to raise $72,000 this year.

Larry Stephens, who has participated in the event since it began in Columbia, is a Special Olympics athlete who has competed in basketball, bocce, bowling, swimming and volleyball. Stephens was with employees from Giving Gardens — a retail greenhouse operated by Central Missouri Subcontracted Enterprises and staffed by people with disabilities — who were at the front of the line to take a dip in the frigid lake, dressed up as flowers and produce.

Stephens' mother, Terri Hilt, a supervisor at Giving Gardens, joked that her son should take 50 laps after he takes his plunge.

Employees from Kilgore's Medical Pharmacy dressed up as superheroes and among the group the costume that seemed to draw the most attention belonged to Adam Veteto, who dressed as Wonder Woman.

"That was, by far, the least intelligent thing I have ever done," Veteto said after he left the water. When asked to clarify if he meant running into the chilly water or dressing as a scantily-clad heroine, he said he could not decide.

After a passer-by pointed at his bust and said he was "falling out" of his costume, Veteto had the answer: "Dressing like Wonder Woman."

Copyright 2014 Columbia Daily Tribune   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1035 days ago   Article ID# 1459002

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