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Polar Plungers make a splash

Savanna Drees, 11, closes her eyes as she leaps into the water during the Polar Plunge on Saturday morning in the Canad Inn parking lot. The participants raised money for the North Dakota Special Olympics. Drees and her friend Sheyenne Paul raised $75. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

More than 50 people late Saturday morning were "Freezin' for a Reason," the theme of this year's Polar Plunge to benefit North Dakota Special Olympics.

"We had fewer jumpers than last year, but we're still going to raise more than $10,000," said Sgt. Aaron Hummel of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. Kathy Meagher, president of Special Olympics North Dakota, said she expects to have total figures by Monday.

Pledges were raised before plungers entered a rectangular tank set up by law enforcement and the Grand Forks Fire Department in the Canad Inns parking lot. Smiling faces cheered on by about 100 spectators were replaced by wide-eyed surprise-- and a few choice words-- once they jumped into 4 feet of water said to be 30 to 40 degrees.

"Exhilarating," said Terry Peterson, the only plunger to bring along shower soap and bathe in the tank.

Cory Waldorf, painted in Shrek green, was one of the brave souls to belly flop.

"I hit my belly on the bottom," he said. "It was worth it. I work with kids with special needs."

Sgt. Gary Grove of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office said "God Bless John Wayne" as he and his cowboy hat fell backward into the drink. Despite the use of duct tape around his boot tops, Grove said, "I got water in my boots."

Grove is a frequent participant in the Special Olympics Torch Run.

Other jumpers executed cannonballs, somersaults, cartwheels and synchronized pairs, while others had second thoughts and waded in. Names such as Jumpin' Jan Splash and Matthew's Polar Posse were as colorful as the costumes, which ranged from pirate outfits to the grass skirt and seashells adorned by Jerry Thorson.

WDAZ-TV reporter Jessica Dugan was the "drenched woman walking" as she donned inmate orange and handcuffs while attempting to offer a plate of cookies to bribe the judges, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Highway Patrol Capt. Kevin Robson, Border Patrol Commander Rosa Hernandez and State's Attorney Peter Welte.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to