The sheet of ice covering an outdoor swimming pool at Black Hills Harley-Davidson thawed just in time for hundreds of people to take the Polar Plunge.
Recent snowfall and below-freezing temperatures contributed to the brisk atmosphere for the 2018 Rapid City Polar Plunge, an annual fundraiser for Special Olympics South Dakota. Plungers jumped into a pool of 40 degree water on Saturday in the parking lot at Black Hills Harley-Davidson.
A total of 390 plungers entered this year’s event. Hundreds more friends, family and Special Olympians of all ages — some bundled in winter coats, others dressed in costume — attended to cheer on the plungers. Participants raised more than $90,000.
The 2018 Polar Plunge marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics South Dakota, and it marks the 30th anniversary of Law Enforcement Torch Run, according to Todd Bradwisch. He works for Special Olympics South Dakota as the vice president of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The Polar Plunge is presented by Law Enforcement Torch Run, and local police and sheriff’s department employees were a strong presence at Saturday’s fundraiser. While some staff members provided security, other employees and officers from the Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and the South Dakota Highway Patrol raised money and jumped into the water.
This is the third consecutive year Black Hills Harley-Davidson has hosted the plunge, and this year it partnered with J & L Harley-Davidson in Sioux Falls to create a friendly competition between the two stores.
“Rapid City is one of the first communities (in the state) to have a Polar Plunge,” said Bradwisch, who praised the support of Black Hills Harley-Davidson and co-owner Jim Burgess. Burgess has a son who participates in Special Olympics.
“All the money stays in South Dakota,” Bradwisch said, adding that 2,100 athletes take part in Special Olympics South Dakota.
Specifically, Polar Plunge proceeds benefit two local Special Olympics programs, Rapid City Storm and Rapid City Flame.
Rapid City Storm is a program for Black Hills Works clients and is one of the two biggest Special Olympics delegations in the state. Rapid City Storm gives more than 300 athletes from Black Hills Works opportunities to enter local and state competitions.
Rapid City Flame is for children and adults who have intellectual disabilities and who live in the Black Hills and its surrounding communities. More than 150 athletes in Rapid City Flame can participate in local and state competitions.
For more information about Special Olympics South Dakota, visit sosd.org.