We all have odd habits and silly traditions. These things are different for all of us. Some seek fun or nostalgia. Others are after comfort or excitement. The truly great traditions in life seem to check all those boxes though and many here at FlexTrades have found just such a thing with the Polar Plunge! Our participation started on a whim – coworkers supporting coworkers, looking to have some fun, do some good, and check off an essential bucket list item of life in the North. By our second year, in 2019, Team FlexTrades had officially become a thing and an annual event had been born.

This year marked a milestone for us, with our 5th consecutive event, and we wanted to celebrate it appropriately. How, though? Well, by doing what FlexTrades always does – setting a goal and smashing it!

What is the Polar Plunge? 

The Polar Plunge is an annual event that occurs in many states across the northern US. Some places it’s called the Polar Bear Plunge. Regardless of what it’s called or where it happens, the plunge supports Special Olympics. These events normally happen with the assistance of local law enforcement associations to coordinate, prepare sites, and run events. Money raised is then directed to local Special Olympics organizations to help fund all their activities throughout the year. The financial impact of these events is more than significant – they’re outright critical. For example, all plunges in Minnesota this year have already raised almost $3.5 MILLION for Special Olympics Minnesota! 

What Do You Actually Do? 

An event can get elaborate, depending on location, but the act of plunging itself is straight-forward. First, volunteers cut a giant hole in a frozen lake then setup a giant inflatable polar bear tunnel and some grandstands. Next a local radio or TV station sends out someone to act as MC and host to guide the spectators (which can be anywhere from dozens to hundreds depending on the event) through the day’s activities. Finally, people with very warm hearts jump into very cold water for a great cause. Then they get out as quickly as they can and head for heated tents to change and celebrate! If this sounds like something you’d like to see or do, there are still events scheduled throughout the month of March and they’re totally free to attend!

How Did Team FlexTrades Do? 

In our first four years our plunge team raised over $16,000 dollars total and was consistently among the top fundraising corporations at our event – despite being a very small team in comparison to most others. This made us want to shoot big, so we did. We pushed hard to grow our team and ended up with our largest group of participants, 24 plungers, ever! We had some team members that had participated in every plunge and some who were going to their first. We even had some attend in their first year with FlexTrades. Current FlexTrades teammates, former coworkers, parents, children – this year was a collective representation of a true “work family.” Then we started raising funds. Based on the commitments individual team participants made at registration, Team FlexTrades was aiming to raise $4k but we set a stretch goal of $5k and a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of $6,000. By plunge day we had exceeded all of them! Raising a final total of $6,087 made this our best plunge yet!

When it was all said and done, we had our most fundraisers ever, most individual donations ever, highest number of plungers into the water ever, most kids participating ever, raised our annual average to over $5k per year, AND had a great time! 

What Happens to All That Money? 

This Special Olympics Minnesota makes a little go a long way and every dollar raised via a Polar Plunge is redirected back to SOMN organizations to do just that! From providing medals for athletes to paying for meals to forming new SOMN delegations and covering travel expenses to state, national, and international games – plunge dollars help fund everything that’s necessary for the Special Olympics. Team FlexTrades couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of that!  

More Information 

If you want to learn more about the when and why behind the start of Team FlexTrades and our Polar Plunge participation, read our previous blog about it. If you have questions about the plunge, Special Olympics, donating/participating, or FlexTrades’ involvement, please send them to our Writing Team to get answers! And never forget the creed all Special Olympic Athletes live and compete by, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? How about the most charitable? Here at PMG, we like to combine the two answers every year when we Polar Plunge! Don’t know what that is or what it supports? Well then, let me tell you a little bit about it.

The Polar Plunge is a series of events, in many states across the country, where otherwise right-thinking people jump into freezing water in support of Special Olympics. Since all 14,000+ lakes here in Minnesota (bet you thought we only had 10k, huh?) freeze over each winter, we plunge. What do we mean by plunge? We cut a hole in the ice and jump in – pretty straightforward. It’s every bit as cold as it sounds but also so much fun!

About the Special Olympics

The Special Olympics began in the backyard of a Kennedy when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started her annual, “Camp Shriver” on the grounds of her Maryland home in 1962. This camp was aimed at providing summer engagement and physical activity for those with intellectual impairment who were, at that time, still barred from participating in more mainstream programs. It would become an annual event that grew each year. Eventually, Camp Shriver morphed into the International Special Olympics Summer Games. The first event under that name occurred in Chicago on July 20, 1968. Over a thousand athletes from the USA and Canada participated. Today, the inclusive movement that began that day touches more than 5 million children and adults, spread across over 170 countries.

My Polar Plunge Inspiration

Joey and Josh FlexTrades

It’s an easy mission to support and my personal connection with Special Olympics began with a birth, but it wasn’t mine. My cousin Joey was born with Down’s Syndrome in 1960. This was a time in our history when special needs children were still regularly separated from their families and institutionalized. “Mainstreaming” was not a concept in American society yet but trailblazers like Joey’s parents and Eunice Kennedy Shriver were beginning the ground swell of change that would eventually lead to reforms and progress like the Special Olympics and the Americans with Disabilities Act. By the time I came along in the early 1980s, Joey was already a young adult with more than a decade of Special Olympics experience under his belt. He would go on to accumulate another decade more, eventually competing in over two dozen Minnesota state games and a handful of national competitions.

The skills, confidence, and joy Joey gained from this career were a source of pride for the rest of his life and he applied lessons he learned from competition to his “regular” life daily. Multiple generations of our family gladly provided financial support to Special Olympics and shared in Joey’s experiences.

When I was looking for a more hands-on way to get involved with my support of the mission, I found it right around the time I started my career with PMG in early 2017. This was when I participated in my first Polar Plunge with friends.

PMG Supports Special Olympics

Everything about the experience was positive, exhilarating, inspiring, and uplifting. I couldn’t stop talking about it when I returned to work the following Monday – or for months to come! By the time 2018 was knocking on our door, several of my coworkers had agreed to participate with me and our first PMG Team was ready to take the plunge! Since then, we’ve raised over $14,000 to support Special Olympics programs across our home state. To put that amount in perspective, every $500 raised can provide the funding to start a new Special Olympics of Minnesota (SOMN) delegation. This organization can make a little go a long way!

Support a 2022 Polar Plunge

Today, as we prepare for our 5th Annual Polar Plunge, we’d like to share the fun with you too! You don’t need to be in Minnesota, or even willing to jump into a lake, to participate with us. Thanks to the internet and COVID, there are now a lot of ways you can partake or support us.

Our event takes place on February 19, 2022, in Prior Lake, Minnesota. You can participate with us by doing any of the following:

  • Plunge virtually (or throwing a rubber chicken into the lake rather than yourself). I’m also offering to personally create a corresponding “Freeze Your Beard” video for every virtual plunger we get registered with our PMG Team!
  • Donate to support our team. If you’re not interested in getting cold and wet. Register or donate to our team with this link.
  • Come out and support the team in person on the ice. Spectators are welcome and encouraged!
  • Cheer on our team on social media – some of us will need the extra boost to take the plunge!

More Information

Don’t forget, you can find a plunge event anywhere in the world and create your own team too! As much as we’d love your support, we want you to support Special Olympics even more. If you have questions about the plunge, Special Olympics, donating/participating, or PMG’s involvement please send them to our Writing Team to get answers! And never forget the creed all Special Olympic Athletes live and compete by, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”