Hundreds head to Marina del Rey on Saturday for a cold swim in support of the Special Olympics

By Jennifer Boucher

The Polar Plunge is the Special Olympics’ splashiest fundraiser

The Polar Plunge is the Special Olympics’ splashiest fundraiser

Marina del Rey isn’t Alaska, but that water is cold!

On Saturday, more than 300 people are expected to go for a chilly winter’s dip at Mother’s Beach during the Polar Plunge, a fundraiser benefitting the Special Olympics Southern California.

The day begins innocently enough with a breakfast buffet at Killer Shrimp, but then things get serious: Before jumping into the sea, participants fill out a “Last Word Document” explaining why they’re taking the plunge, how much they’ve raised for the cause and even what they think will come out of their mouths when they hit the water.

Participants are required to raise at least $50 each and are encouraged to dress in fun costumes and fully submerge themselves in the ocean waters. Family, friends and other supporters who register as chickens — being that they are “too chicken” to take the plunge, but still donated to the cause — are encouraged to wear chicken suits as they cheer from the sand.

Beachside activities include booths, games and prizes from the likes of firefighters, police, the L.A. Kings, L.A. Galaxy and Jet Blue Airlines, with Marina del Rey’s Phins Water Sports providing stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for people to try out.

In all, the event is expected to raise more than $30,000 to support year-round sports training for athletes with special needs, said Brandon Tanner, events manager for Special Olympics Southern California.

Polar Plunge events began in Alaska but migrated to California as other states adopted the practice, an event with significance that goes beyond jumping into chilly waters.

“Our athletes face challenges everyday in life, but yet they put it behind them to continue and be happy and push through things. Well, for many people, they have a fear of swimming or they have a fear of cold water, and they’re putting that aside so that they can raise money for Special Olympics,” Tanner said.

To kick off the plunge, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Dept.’s Marina Del Rey station will carry the Special Olympics “flame of hope” into the water.

“I’m honored to be introducing this event to the community that we serve,” said Sheriff’s Dep. Nova Simon of the Marina Del Rey Station, who is participating in the Polar Plunge for the first time.

“These kids are facing almost insurmountable challenges. It’s difficult for some of them to just get up and walk across the room,” Simon said. “That they’re willing to fight through fear and pain and frustration to do the simplest stuff that we take for granted makes me feel like jumping into the water to show them I’m going to do something that’s difficult or uncomfortable because I’m down for their cause.”

The Polar Plunge happens from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Marina “Mother’s” Beach, 4101 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. To sign up, visit sosc.org/laplunge.

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