Polar Plunge returns: Why people are tubing for a good cause

Published: Feb. 13, 2021 at 6:32 PM CST
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MOUNT HOREB, Wis. (WMTV) - Special Olympics Wisconsin is back with its biggest fundraiser of the year, and while it may look different, the cause is ever the same.

According to organizers, more than a hundred people signed up to slide down the tubing hill at Tyrol Basin. The Polar Plunge benefits more than 9 thousand “athletes” in Wisconsin (individuals 8 years and older with an intellectual disability.) While the pandemic has made everyone feel more isolated, the organization says it has worked hard to keep its athletes connected and engaged.

“It sets the stage for all of our tournaments and competitions and what we’re able to provide our athletes throughout the year,” event organizer Alyse Peters said.

The pandemic has also changed the format of the event. Since 2000, Special Olympics Wisconsin hosted events in Madison where teams dived head deep into icy waters. The move to Tyrol Basin was the “better way to social distance,” according to Peters.

Matthew Steplyk and his coworkers from JP Cullen are the top fundraising team, raising more than $17 thousand. “The cold really doesn’t matter,” Steplyk said. “It’s about raising money for Special Olympics and supporting the great work they do.”

A 6-year-veteran of the plunge, Steplyk had a personal reason for returning every year. “My mom actually is a special ed teacher so growing up I’ve been around her students. Quite frankly they’re some of the nicest individuals I’ve ever met on the planet. I enjoy doing what I can to help out.”

The fundraiser at Tyrol Basin has already raised more than $40 thousand. The deadline to donate online is March 5.

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