BU students take the plunge to support Special Olympics

IMG_6566 FTW2By Kara Blomquist



Two men dressed like Bruiser and Bevo, the mascot of the University of Texas, jumped into a pool.

It wasn’t the start of a Big 12 brawl. It was the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

Twenty-eight people jumped into a pool  at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hawaiian Falls Water Park in support of Special Olympics Texas.  Hawaiian Falls Water Park is located at 900 Lake Shore Drive.

Sixteen of the plungers were Baylor students as part of the Baylor Special Olympics Volunteer Group.

In order to take the plunge, each participant had to raise at least $60 for Special Olympics Texas. This money will help fund Special Olympics competitions.

Plungers were encouraged to come in costume. One participant came decked out in green and gold, complete with a hat in the shape of a bear.  Another came in burnt orange and white carrying a plush Bevo on his shoulders. They jumped into the pool at the same time.

The Baylor Special Olympics Volunteer Group has been in existence since spring 2012.

Tommy Smith, Special Olympics Heart of Texas area director, said he recognized the help Baylor volunteers have provided the organization.

“I’m so thankful for Baylor and their support of Special Olympics,” he said.

This semester the group is trying to host more fundraising events, said Southlake senior Matt Hayes, president of the group.

“The Polar Plunge is a big part of our fundraising effort this semester,” he said.

The group raised $2,965 for the event, $1,000 of which came from Brandt Engineering.

Hayes’ father, an active member of Special Olympics Texas, works at Brandt Engineering.

Smith said he appreciates not only the organizations but also the individuals who give their time to the cause.

“We can’t do what we do without volunteers,” he said. “They’re really the ones that help make events happen.”

Volunteers from the Waco community at the Polar Plunge helped with registration, judging the costumes and serving food to the plungers.

Smith said volunteers help the organization function and reach its goals.

“We’re just trying to be a state that’s growing and reaching more and more athletes every year,” he said.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run sponsored the event, Smith said.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is made up of law enforcement agencies and has sponsored Polar Plunges across the state of Texas for several years.

“It’s just any officer who wants to get involved and support Special Olympics,” Smith said.

Sheila Simons, administrative assistant to a lieutenant at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said she thinks it’s a great opportunity for the law enforcement agencies.

“It’s nice for them to get out and do something to show that they not only write tickets,” she said. “They do a lot of good things for people too.”

Individuals at the Texas Department of Public Safety won two awards: the Top Individual Fundraiser and the Golden Plunger Award for best costume.

David Murphy, a corporal with the Texas Department of Public Safety, raised the most money, with $318.  He won the Top Individual Fundraiser award.

Ryan Watkins, a state trooper, won the Golden Plunger Award for best costume.  He came dressed as cupid.

Smith said the costume aspect of the event makes it more fun for the participants. “If you’ve got people coming dressed up in this crazy stuff, it just adds to the excitement, adds to the atmosphere,” he said.

Along with Bevo and Bruiser, Mario, Luigi, cupid, a cowboy and a ninja turtle made an appearance at the event. Smith said Hawaiian Falls Water Park played a big role in making the event happen.

“They have gone overboard in accommodating us, and, hopefully, we will have many more Polar Plunges at Hawaiian Falls,” he said.

Emily Bennett, director of marketing for Hawaiian Falls, said Hawaiian Falls enjoyed hosting the event. “This is our way of reminding people we’re here and also giving back to a really good cause,” she said.