End the Year with Cheer: Digital team is freezin’ for a reason for Special Olympics Alaska

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 4:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - To end the year with cheer, four members of Alaska’s News Source Digital Team teamed up to raise money for Special Olympics Alaska.

Every year, Special Olympics Alaska holds one of its largest fundraisers, the Polar Plunge. Volunteers are encouraged to raise a minimum of $125 before jumping into icy water at Goose Lake. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Olympics Alaska President and CEO Sue Perles said the fundraiser went virtual this year with a goal of raising $300,000 with the challenge.

“Typically we gather at Goose Lake, the fire department cuts a hole in the ice and puts a few fire folks in the water in dry suits and they make everything really safe for us to have a real polar plunge,” Perles said. “This year, with the pandemic, that’s just not possible. So we are going virtual, and what that means is we can expand well beyond the Municipality of Anchorage.”

Organizers say, as of Dec. 17, they have raised $147,700 of their total goal. Funds raised from the Polar Plunge go towards sports training for those with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Alaska supports around 2,500 athletes in the state.

Perles said the Alaska program supports competitive athletes in 14 different Olympic-style sports through programs at 80 different elementary schools, middle schools and high schools statewide. Alaska’s program is also unique in having one of the few Special Olympics training facilities in the nation located in Anchorage.

Because of the pandemic, fundraisers had to get creative with their polar plunges. Some people took dips in the ocean, others, like Perles, had a bucket of cold water dumped on them.

“We’ve seen all kinds of polar plunges. The most common one is having a big bucket of water dumped over your head, but we’ve had people fill up construction equipment with water and pour it on people, we’ve had the fire department hose down the police department, we’ve had just all kinds of good things,” Perles said.

Alaska’s News Source’s digital producers Gilbert Cordova, Cheyenne Mathews and Malia Barto, as well as digital content manager Liz Roman, opted to have icy cold water dumped on them to show their support for the cause. Collectively, the group has raised $741 for Special Olympics Alaska.

While the polar plunge challenge ends on Saturday — the date that was originally scheduled to be the Polar Plunge event at Goose Lake — Perles said the organization is always grateful for donations, which can be given here.

Watch Roman get a cooler full of icy water dumped on her after she met her personal goal of raising $200 for Special Olympics below.

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