Tri-City swimmers prepare for Polar Plunge

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 12, 2013 

The idea of jumping in the frigid Columbia River may seem unimaginable to some, but it won't stop Allison Campbell from taking the plunge for the third time.

"It's really a lot of fun," she said. "It's exhilarating and you have a huge sense of accomplishment when you jump in the water and get out."

Campbell plans to make the jump again Jan.19 at the seventh annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

Campbell, director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland, jumps as part of Team Battelle.

"It's a personal challenge to jump in the cold water," she said. "And I have an appreciation for Special Olympics."

Kennewick police put on the annual fundraiser that encourages Tri-Citians to jump in the river at the blue bridge boat launch in Columbia Park.

The Polar Plunge is one of many fundraisers done each year by Tri-City law enforcement in support of Special Olympic athletes.

Last year, 700 people decided to be "Freezin for a Reason," and this year organizers are hoping to have 1,000 jumpers.

"This is a great way to start the year," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.

Though Hohenberg admitted, "I never look forward to jumping in the Columbia River when it's as cold as it is," he also quickly acknowledged that the cause makes being cold and wet worth it.

So far, 375 participants have signed up and $21,514 in donations have been made online to teams and plungers. People can register in advance for the event online at Registrations also can be done on the morning of the plunge at Columbia Park. Check-in and registration is from 9 to 11 a.m., with the first jumpers hitting the water at noon.

This year, plungers can also pick up their registration packets and T-shirts from noon to 8 p.m. Friday at the Kennewick police station, said organizer and Kennewick police Detective Sgt. Randy Maynard.

All it takes is $50 in donations for the opportunity to jump in the icy water. Kids 12 and younger have to submit a minimum donation of $25. People who are worried that they may melt if they get wet still can support the Polar Plunge and Special Olympics Washington by making a minimum $50 donation to reserve a spot in the Chicken Coop.

Campbell and Team Battelle have taken the top fundraising spots for individuals and teams again this year. Kennewick police recently accepted a $6,000 corporate donation for Special Olympics from Mike Kluse, director of PNNL on behalf of Team Battelle.

Campbell set a personal fundraising goal of $2,000 and already has exceeded that, raising $4,230.

"It's easy if you have a great cause and you have generous friends and family and you have a fun event," Campbell said.

All the money raised by the Polar Plunge goes to help local Special Olympics athletes compete at events around the state. It costs about $650 to support each athlete, officials said.

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