East Tennesseans raise money for Special Olympics program with polar plunge

The event brought more than $30,000 to Knoxville.
East Tennesseans participate in polar plunge to raise money for the special olympics.
East Tennesseans participate in polar plunge to raise money for the special olympics.(Jared Austin)
Published: Feb. 19, 2022 at 6:32 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2022 at 10:55 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Dozens of East Tennesseeans jumped into the outdoor pool at Westside YMCA Saturday as a way to help raise money for Special Olympics Tennessee.

Event manager Jennifer McAfee said, “It’s a party atmosphere. It’s fun. They’re excited because they have been raising money, but once they hit that water they get in and get out quick.”

At the time of the jump, the water temperature was 45 degrees. That wasn’t going to stop some jumping in.

Polar plunge jumper Wyatt Hopkins said, “It’s just a crazy thing. You wouldn’t think about coming out here in February and jumping into an ice-cold pool. It’s just a fun thing to do.”

Special Olympics Tennessee does several polar plunges across the state each year. In Knoxville this year, they’ve raised over $30,000.

McAfee said, “Athletes do not pay anything to compete or to be a part of special Olympics so everything we do is dependent on fundraising and donors so it’s really important for us to be able to raise money for them.”

While several groups in East Tennessee participated, Gibbs High School’s JROTC program did as well as a way to once again honor Sgt. Ryan Knauss, who died in the attacks in Kabul.

Sgt. Stephen Lundy with the program said, “That is the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make and this is about serving other people. Any community service we do this year is going to be dedicated to him.”

People can still send donations to Special Olympics Tennessee through their website.

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