The first time Ted Rupert jumped in Lake Tahoe during the winter to raise money for Special Olympics, he did it on an impulse.
"It sounded really crazy, and that's right up my alley," he said.
But when he met the athletes who came to the celebration afterward and their families extended their gratitude, he committed to the event.
"I realized how much the Special Olympians really needed the help," he said. "I thought I would try to make a difference."
Since that first plunge in 2004 when he was one of 12, he has seen the Polar Plunge grow to more than 300 participants that raised just over $100,000 last year.
"Now I'm just a small fish in a big pond," said Rupert, owner of Rupert's Auto Body. "It's great."
Joyce Whitney-Silva, CFO of Greater Nevada Credit Union, joined the cause four years ago.
A coach for Special Olympics, she recruited 45 co-workers to jump in last year.
About that many have volunteered this year as well.
"Once people to the plunge, they realize what a great cause it is," she said. "They get really excited about it."
After a series of fundraisers, with a couple more to go, Whitney-Silva said her team is well on its way of meeting its goal of $7,500.
With 54 teams signed up to take the plunge Saturday, she's hoping the event will also reach its goal.
"We would like to hit $100,000," she said. "I think there's still a good opportunity if we can get the community to do a last push."
The Freezin' for a Reason Polar Plunge at Zephyr Cove still is open for donations and plungers. It will include entertainment, a costume contest, prizes, and Special Olympics athletes with their coaches and other volunteers.
A group of Carson High School students have assembled a team.
Maggie Schwarz, regional vice president of Special Olympics in Nevada, encouraged the community to get involved to help send three Nevada athletes to compete at the World Games in Athens, Greece this summer.
"Stick in your big toe or go whole hog," Schwarz said in a statement. "It's fun for all, and plungers share a memorable experience with friends, family and co-workers while giving back. Think of it this way, the Special Olympics' athletes demonstrate their bravery in everything they do, every day of their lives. All we need to do is be half that courageous by getting a little wet in chilly water."
For more information or to donate or register, go to polarplungesouthlaketahoe.com.
If you go
WHAT: Freezin' for a Reason Polar Plunge
WHEN: Registration begins 10 a.m. Saturday. The costume contest is at 11:30 a.m. before the plunge at noon. The post-plunge party begins at 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Zephyr Cove
INFO: polarplungesouthlaketahoe.com or sonv.org
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