Most people would think it a difficult task to talk someone into dressing up in a costume and jumping into 33-degree water on a 20-degree day, fortunately most people are not like Pat Peters. As the Area Director for Genesee/Lapeer County Special Olympics Pat has been convincing folks to take the “Polar Plunge” and donate money to support Special Olympics for the past seven winters.
The 2017 Michigan Law Enforcement Fenton Polar Plunge was held on February 4th at the Fenton Moose Lodge and true to form it was a cold blustery day. Over 250 jumpers registered for this year’s event, the 9th annual to be hosted by the Loyal Order of Moose at their lodge on the north shore of Lake Fenton. Twenty-four other such events around Michigan in 2017 all donate to Michigan Special Olympics.
For Pat Peters this is a labor of love, her job with Special Olympics is strictly a volunteer effort. In real life, Pat works for a local school district, but her vocation is dedicating her time and talents to providing young people and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in the “transforming joy of sports.” How dedicated? Pat set a goal for the 2016 Polar Plunge to raise $75,000 dollars, she committed to getting a tattoo if the mark was met and yes, she proudly displays her one and only skin ink in the form of an Olympic torch. This year Pat promised to glam-up in a dress and heels, something she says occurs almost as frequently as getting a tattoo, if the $75K mark were hit again.
By 11am, the start of jumping team registration, the parking lots around the Moose Lodge are full and some of the 50 plus volunteers that help with the event are shuttling participants and spectators from a remote parking lot provided by the Fenton Winery and Brewery just down the street at North Long Lake Road and Fenton Road. Inside the Lodge the regular food and beverage staff keep the drinks flowing and the hot edibles coming straight off the grill; the party is starting to ramp-up.
United Auto Workers Union Local 598 has been the top fund raiser at the Fenton Polar Plunge for the last four years. Vice President Ryan Buchalski explained that this year’s event was special because they dedicated their efforts in memory of a good friend of the group, Frank White, who recently passed away. The Local’s contribution exceeded $20,000 and speaks to the generosity of those in the Flint branch of the UAW.
As the 1pm parade of participants and the start of jumping grew near, costumes were the order of the day. Some of the jumpers just wore t-shirts embossed with the name of their organization, others opted for a tropical grass skirt attire. Super hero’s Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman made an appearance; there was even a presidential imposter who jumped in with suit, tie, fake hair, and all.
The youngest jumper this year was 10 year Noah Caldwell, and he choose to dress as a mummy with multiple layers of wrapped bandages, no doubt to help protect from the cold wind on his way to the lake. Noah was jumping for his Uncle who has special needs and this was his way of showing support for a special family member.
Our own Team Lasco jumpers splashed down just before activities wrapped up mid-afternoon. The first-time jumpers from Lasco Ford looked like seasoned veterans as they hit the water and raced to the warmer confines of the changing rooms.
The plunge went off without a hitch with the Genesee County Sheriff’s dive team on-hand to make sure everyone arrived safely back to shore. The only mishap was an over-enthusiastic jumper who ran down the ramp, slipped and fell into the water without the usual 3-2-1 count-down; fortunately, he walked away with only his pride bruised.
With the jumping finished the judges convened to award prizes for the best costume, youngest jumper, most money raised by an individual, and most money raided by a group, with each being awarded a polar bear trophy. The 2017 Fenton Polar Plunge exceeded their $75,000 goal again this year and, true to her word, Pat donned the dress, heals, and make up as promised.
See the complete Fenton Polar Plunge 2017 Photo Gallery Below