In December 2012, Ryan Molt had just closed on a major life milestone — a new home right here in Auburn. Working at Parks and Recreations for the city, a conversation with a colleague about a new fundraiser led to an event that the community has grown to love for the last nine years.
The 9th annual Polar Plunge, a nationally recognized fundraiser benefiting Lee County Special Olympics, will take place at 9 a.m. on Jan. 30 at the Samford Pool on East Samford Avenue.
This year’s event is still expected to carry forth with the tradition of brave “plungers” dressed in costumes taking the dive for what Molt sees as more than a good cause. According to Molt, who retired from the city of Auburn this year, the event, which started in his backyard pool with only a few family and friends, has grown to nearly 70 to 100 participants in the past years.
“The community is the reason this works,” Molt said. “Those of us that put it on are just a small part of it. That first year, it was just friends and family and we raised $4,000 for the cause.
“We started expanding it and now we are looking at raising $15 to $16,000 a year.”
The Plunge raised over $10,000 last year, and those planning to take the plunge are encouraged to get as many sponsors as possible. Prizes will be given out for those who raise the most money. All proceeds raised at the Plunge will go directly to the Lee County Special Olympics program and be utilized for necessities such as equipment and uniforms for the participants.
Parks and Recreation, alongside Lee County Special Olympics, will also be working hard to bring this fun and family-friendly event to the community while adhering to local, state and national Covid-19 guidelines.
Differences that guests can expect to see will be most notable in the areas for spectators and the plunge itself.
“This year, just to make sure we are adhering with Covid-19 guidelines, we are actually going to do the plunge differently,” Molt said. “Instead of everyone just jumping in at once like normal, we are going to do waves of plungers.
“We will be socially distancing the plungers and allowing 30 or so to jump in at once. Just to be safe.”
While this is not a ticketed event and, in previous years, all guests have been welcomed, Molt said that the city would like to limit the amount of guests this year by only allowing spectators at the fence line of the pool.
“We normally allow guests to surround the pool,” Molt said. “But to ensure social distancing, we will only allow guests to come as far as that fence line unless they are taking the dive.”
To register for the event, Molt encourages all interested residents to visit https://campscui.active.com/orgs/CityofAuburn?orglink=camps-registration. Registration is free for all and participants are encouraged to wear individual or group costumes for more than a few laughs during this arctic blast of an event. All participants must pre-register for the event.
Participants are encouraged to dress in a costume that reflects this year's them of "Best and Worst of 2020."
For any questions, residents are encouraged to visit the city’s website or the Facebook page for the event, Auburn Polar Plunge.
As for Molt, in a time where community is necessary for public health, the timing is perfect for kicking off a great year for the Auburn community.
“Hopefully, for the people that have been around for the nine years this has been going on, this year's event will show how we are still going,” Molt said. “Just to add a sense of normalcy when things aren't so normal.
“We’re hoping we can give people a good laugh from watching people take a dive in that cold water in crazy costumes for a really good cause.”