Friday afternoon (12/3) I was walking a 1.5-mile trail around downtown, getting pictures for a different story I was working on when I stopped by The Depot parking lot to check out the activity. Volunteers for Special Olympics Montana were bustling around the lot and a water truck was pumping thousands of gallons of water into a temporary swimming pool. The Polar Plunge was scheduled to begin in just a few hours when an issue popped up. There was apparently a significant leak in the pool.

Photos by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
Photos by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
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Temperatures were dropping throughout the day.

The man operating the water trunk halted the pump while a volunteer climbed into the chilly water to apply a patch. The day was relatively mild, but temperatures would quickly drop as the sun disappeared and the wind began to pick up. Soon, dozens of people would be jumping into this icy pool for a great cause.

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
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Polar Plunges are happening across the state.

As I wrote in November, Special Olympics Montana hosts twelve Polar Plunge events around the state and most occur in December, January, and February. The Miles City plunge was the same night as Billings. As showtime approached, the crowd was in good spirits for the 2021 Polar Plunge. The event was virtual last year, due to the pandemic. Just before the first plunge began, about 20 bags of ice were sold for donations and added to the pool.

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Photo by Johnny Vincent, Townsquare Media
Photo by Johnny Vincent, Townsquare Media
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Teams of plungers raised over $24,000 for Special Olympics Montana.

Athletes, members of law enforcement, schools, and others all raised a minimum pledge of $125 each to participate. One individual raised $2,500 and most teams raised from a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars per team. Many participants wore fun costumes (there was a zoo-themed team, a tutu team, and even a full-on Grinch costume), all of which added to the festive atmosphere.

All of the money raised from the Special Olympics Montana Polar Plunge stays in Montana. Event coordinator Gabby DeNio told me they were pleased with the turnout this year and as the event concluded, organizers and volunteers were already discussing next year's Polar Plunge.

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