News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 28, 2009

Special Olympics winter fundraiser brings in cold cash

By Crystal Garcia

TERRE HAUTE — Fifty-two people took the plunge Saturday at Hulman Center — the Polar Plunge, that is.

Nearly $9,000 was raised to benefit Special Olympics Indiana, leaving plungers “freezin’ for a reason” at the event, first of its kind in Terre Haute. This year marks the 40th anniversary for Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Indiana is a non-profit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in various Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Summer games are hosted each year at Indiana State University, which will be June 5 through 7 this year.

Awards were given to those who wore the best costume and who raised the most money for the cause at the Polar Plunge.

Patty Cottom, 55, of Terre Haute won the award for best costume as she dressed up like a chicken with a sign around her neck that read, “Spring Chicken.”

She said she chose to plunge because she was challenged by her co-workers at Union Hospital. She told them if they raised $150, then she would plunge, and they raised $504, she said.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Cottom said. “It was a lot of fun. I’ll do it again.”

An event such as this one is important because it raises money for an event that “provides an opportunity for the developmentally challenged children and adults to get out there and strut their stuff,” she said. “They work hard all year getting ready for the Olympics and this is their chance to shine.”

Also, donning a costume, though not as covered as many, was ISU senior Kyle Cunningham, 22, of Muncie.

Sporting a pair Abercrombie boxers, tennis shoes, racing gloves and a racing helmet, he carried a loaf of Wonder Bread to portray Ricky Bobby from the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Cunningham, an automotive technician manager major, was representing Team Sycamore Racing, the National Hot Rod Association drag racing team at ISU.

He agreed with Cottom and said plunging wasn’t that bad and would do it again.

“The coldest part was getting out,” Cunningham said.

There was only one word Debbie Wilson and her two daughters Laura Blue and Lacy Downham could use to describe the experience: numb.

“Oh my gosh, it’s a lot colder than you can imagine,” said Blue, 34, of Montgomery.

Aside from her daughters, Wilson, 50, of Montgomery, also plunged with her husband and son-in-law.

“It was a good cause and we were excited to be able to help out with Special Olympics,” Blue said about why they plunged. “Plus, we just wanted to do something different.”

Wilson added, “It was something fun to do as a family.”

Downham, 23, of Montgomery is a senior at Butler University majoring in special education, which made the event more meaningful to her, she said.

“It’s important to give everybody an opportunity, no matter what their disability is,” she said about why the Special Olympics are important.

Blue added, “They deserve a night to shine.”

Paula Meyer, Polar Plunge committee member at ISU, said they were ecstatic with the turnout and can’t wait for next year.

“This has been wonderful,” she said. “I think everybody had a good time, and hopefully, we’ll build on the success next year.”

For more information about Special Olympics, call (317) 328-2000 or visit

Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or

And the winners are:

Best Costume: Patty Cottom as a spring chicken

Company/corporation that raised the most money: Dever Distributing, $800

Team/group that raised the most money: Arc of Vigo County, $830

Fraternity/sorority that raised the most money: Alpha Sigma Alpha, $1,055

Individual who raised the most money: Bill Mercier, ISU director of public safety, $575

Grand total of money raised: $8,934.47

Total plungers: 52