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Participants ready to brave conditions to take plunge

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

There are cool events.

Then there is the fourth annual Polar Plunge in Hays -- both a cool and cold event.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run started in Wichita in 1981 and has branched out to every state. An offshoot of that is Polar Plunge, which also benefits Special Olympics.

The Hays Police Department will be spearheading the fourth annual Polar Plunge in Hays, one of eight cities in the state hosting plunges this year. The dip in the water will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at America's Best Value Inn, 2524 Vine.

Companies can sponsor the event, and participants can plunge either as part of a team or as an individual. The minimum amount to donate and participate is $75 per participant.

The first year the event was in Hays, plungers hit the water at the site of the mud volleyball pit near Gross Memorial Coliseum. The last two years, it has been at a hotel pool.

"Lot more turnout," said Bill Lovewell of the Hays Police Department and chairman of this year's event. "People like dropping into clear water, a swimming pool instead of muddy water."

Lovewell took the plunge last year. When somebody from the crowd offered a $50 donation if he would do it again, he braved the 28-degree water again -- the same water temperature as when the Titanic hit the iceberg.

Last year, Hays raised approximately $3,000 to $4,000, and the goal this year is at least $5,000 -- hopefully more, Lovewell said.

There will be prizes awarded for participants, including one for best costume.

"It is fun to dress up in different costumes, outfits," Lovewell said, adding he remembers one team dressing up as the Jamaican bobsled team from the movie "Cool Runnings."

At noon, there will be a freewill donation meal.

If anyone wants to donate but not plunge, they can watch from what Lovewell called "the chicken coop," sipping coffee and hot chocolate next to a fire pit.

For more information or to register, go to www.ksso.org/plunge up to 24 hours prior to the event. Potential plungers also can call (913) 236-9290, Ext. 109, or bring forms to packet pickup. Registration is at 10 a.m. the day of the event.

Overall, last year Kansas law enforcement agencies raised approximately $500,000 for Special Olympics, with approximately $200,000 of that coming from the Polar Plunges across the state.

Lovewell had no difficulties in taking the plunge last year, and he even talked his cardiologist into taking an icy dip, too.

"If a guy with a heart attack and other heart issues can do it, you can't say it's unhealthy," Lovewell said.