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Otter Tail Lake Polar Plunge blows fundraising goal out of the water, raising over $70K

The plunge happened this past Saturday, Feb. 5. As of Monday, the 2022 fundraising goal of $65,000 had been surpassed to $70,401.

A group of women dressed in money costumes jump into a frozen lake.
The First National Bank of Henning, Ottertail and Battle Lake team members make their plunge into Otter Tail Lake on Feb. 5, 2022. The team raised $2,681 in support of Special Olympics Minnesota.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)
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OTTERTAIL — Community members splashed into the cold third annual Polar Plunge on Otter Tail Lake on Feb. 5 in support of athletes with Special Olympics Minnesota .

The Polar Plunge is a large statewide fundraiser for Special Olympics; the Otter Tail Lake location was added in 2020.

Thus far, the fundraising goals for this year have been blown out of the water, with the $65,000 goal surpassed to $70,401 as of Feb. 7.

A total of $186,080 was raised over the previous two years. The Otter Tail Lake event is hosted by Special Olympics Minnesota, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office and Otter Tail Lakes Country Association .

With creative costumes and excited attendees, plungers were cheered on by the athlete oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

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Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons kicked off the event with the first plunge of the day and later thanked participants: "What a great opportunity to get communities together," he said.

Otter Tail County's event for Special Olympics Minnesota raised more than $50,000, well over the initial goal of $35,000.

Skies were cloudy and temperatures were the coldest yet for the 2022 event. Temperatures hovered in the teens and the water wavered around 35 degrees. Ottertail, Henning and New York Mills fire and rescue teams supported plungers in the water and onto the exit walkway.

“We were lucky the last two years, it’s been very nice, and now we’re paying for it today,” Fitzgibbons said of the weather. “But the energy level is the same, people are excited.”

Friends and family added to the cheers of the plungers, who jumped into the lake in costume. People were dressed up like the Flintstones, beach-goers, money, hippies and more. In their time under the polar bear spotlight—the Special Olympics inflatable—plungers catapulted, belly flopped and leaped into the cold water.

Over 100 people of the 174 registered plungers jumped in about an hour.

Fire and rescue teams pose for a photo by a polar bear inflatable.
The Ottertail, Henning and New York Mills fire and rescue teams and Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office assisted at the Ottertail Polar Plunge on Feb. 5, 2022.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)
A man surprised at the cold water temperature.
The cold water shocked plungers of all ages at the Ottertail Polar Plunge on Feb. 5, 2022. The water temperature was around 35 degrees.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)
OTC Polar Plunge Unicorns.JPG
“The Horny Blessings” team splashes into Otter Tail Lake at the Polar Plunge on Feb. 5, 2022. The team included Bill Huber, Sam Martel, Bella Huber-Rustad, Amelia Wolters, Jared Martel and Aliesha Wolters.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)

The Polar Plunge has become a family event for the Hubers, who dressed up as horned animals like narwhals, unicorns, kittycorns and zebracorns as “The Horny Blessings” team. They dressed as gnomes last year. The team included Bill Huber, Sam Martel, Bella Huber-Rustad, Amelia Wolters, Jared Martel and Aliesha Wolters.

The cause of Special Olympics is “something near and dear” to the family, they said, as Bill Huber’s nephew has loved being involved for 25 years.

Both Huber and Jared Martel decided their version of full commitment was dunking under the water this year. Afterward, Martel noted the experience as, “Cold, like everyone else’s, but invigorating.”

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Sam Martel cheered along with their daughter, both sparkling in unicorn headbands, as she participated virtually. She started the family tradition in 2019.

A group of women dressed in bright colors jump into a frozen lake.
Underwood School staff members wore beach themed outfits for the Ottertail Polar Plunge on Feb. 5, 2022.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)
A row of people watching an outdoor event.
Friends and family bundled up for the cold to watch the plungers at the Ottertail Polar Plunge on Feb. 5, 2022.
(Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)

Fitzgibbons said the county is glad to support a great cause.

“We’ve got a lot of people doing a lot of good work to make this event happen,” he said.

For more information about Special Olympics Minnesota, visit specialolympicsminnesota.org/ . There are Special Olympics delegations in Perham and Fergus Falls, and school-based programs in Wadena County.

For more information about the Otter Tail Lake Polar Plunge, visit plungemn.org/events/ottertail/ .

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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