Oh, go jump in the river (for charity)

If you're looking for an invigorating way to start the weekend, why not jump into the frigid Columbia River?

Kennewick police and supporters of Special Olympics are hoping Tri-Citians will turn out Saturday for their annual Polar Plunge fundraiser.

"I'm going to say the water will be about 80 degrees, but I know that's not completely true," joked Kennewick police Sgt. Randy Maynard, organizer of this year's plunge. "It'll be a great time, and it's all for a great cause."

The event, at the blue bridge boat launch in Columbia Park, starts 11 a.m., with the first jumpers to hit the water around noon.

So far, 200 plungers have signed up, but people still can sign up on-site beforehand. Registrations open at 9 a.m.

Last year, 260 people -- call them crazy, brave, kind, supportive -- jumped into the river to benefit the cause, and about half were same-day registrations, Maynard said.

All it takes is $50 and a willingness to be cold and wet for a short time. Plungers get special T-shirts that say they took the plunge, but those who don't like water or don't like being cold can pay a $25 donation and get an "unplunged" T-shirt.

This is the fifth year Kennewick police have put on the event, and Maynard said he was hoping to get 1,000 people into the water, but a more realistic goal is 500.

Last year, $38,000 was raised and helped Kennewick police retain the Law Enforcement Torch Run Campaign "top fundraiser" title for the second year in a row.

Not counting sponsorships and other in-kind donations, about $24,000 already has been raised. The high mark is $75,000.

"It's just an amazing opportunity," Maynard said. "The Law Enforcement Torch Run Campaign is all about law enforcement officers getting engaged in fundraising and awareness for Special Olympics and their athletes."

Maynard hasn't taken the plunge, but after making a presentation at a Leadership Tri-Cities meeting, he agreed to jump if $5,000 was pledged on him.

As of Thursday, it looks like he can plan to stay warm and dry, with about $885 donated through his online page www.firstgiving.com/randymaynard. But he will be prepared, just in case.

"I fully expect some people to show up with some money on Saturday. If it comes to $5,000, I'll go in the drink," he said. "Maybe somebody's working behind the scenes."

Maynard said there are about 8,000 Special Olympic athletes in the state, and it costs about $650 to support each one. Last year, $556,000 was raised through the Law Enforcement Torch Run Campaign. The Tri-Cities helped Kennewick police contribute $51,000.

"I'm truly humbled by the way the community has gotten involved," he said.

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