Hundreds Brave Freezing Waters for Polar Plunge

Published 02/15 2014 09:39PM

Updated 02/15 2014 10:48PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Hundreds battled the freezing waters at St. Joseph's annual Polar Plunge on Saturday.

"I have a huge passion for helping people with disabilities and for promoting inclusion and acceptance," said Emily Barnes.

Barnes was one of many who braved the bitterly cold water.

"This is the first year that there was actually ice that had to be removed before we jumped in. So, it was pretty cold on our toes," said Barnes.

The water was so cold, that county workers spent two days removing ice.

"Yesterday was about three or four hours, and then this morning they worked on it for another two hours today," said Melody Prawitz.

The nearly freezing waters didn't stop Barnes, and her sorority sisters, from supporting the Special Olympics.

"I got all of my sisters involved. And, this is our third year doing it as a team," said Barnes.

Barnes is studying special education at Northwest Missouri State University.

She's a coach and volunteer for the Special Olympics.

"Feels great to help a great cause," said Barnes.

Special Olympics Missouri is year-round.

Nearly 17,000 children, and adults, compete in 21 different Olympic-style sports throughout the state.

"Seeing the athletes accomplish something that they work so hard to do. And, be able to go out there on the playing field with your peers and with your friends," said Prawitz.

The Polar Plunge raises money to fund those events.

This year, they raised more than $51,000.

"It will go to all of our facilities, our costs of transportation and equipment for our athletes," said Prawitz.

Participants said the Polar Plunge gave them the chance to not only wear unique outfits, but to help others fulfill a dream.

"It's just a great opportunity for kids that don't have the opportunity that everybody else does to do what they love to do. Just get out there and have fun," said Casey Schulte.

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