Dozens jump into freezing Columbia River for Polar Plunge Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. Every year some of the craziest among us take the plunge in order to support Special Olympians in our area.
But folks aren't just freezing themselves for the fun of it.
Before the big splash, they get to work fund-raising.
Action News talked with a 73-year-old Finley woman who jumped for her fifth time, Saturday.
Mary "Granny Grizz" Allison of Finley said each year she looks forward to the invigorating dip of Polar Plunge Tri-Cities, but it wasn't always this way.
"I was afraid the first time because of my age," she said. "I was afraid I jump in and it would cause a stroke or heart attack or something, but when I survive to that, with no after-effects, I thought I'm never going to be afraid again."
Allison said she counts on a large pool of friends for her fund-raising endeavors.
"It gives me an excuse to visit them," she explained. "Sometimes I get so busy that I don't have time. My husband is in hospice, so I've got a lot going on."
Special Olympics Washington Vice President of Development Mary Do said it's folks like 'Granny Grizz' who make it possible for over 17,000 Washington athletes to train and compete in the games.
"My heart is pretty dang warm," Do sighed. "I mean look at this community, it's amazing! We've got six plunges across the state, and this is probably one of my favorites because of the community."
She said the games are important because they're all about inclusion.
No matter an athlete's ability, Special Olympics gives the individual something to train for, compete in and feel proud of.
"Our athletes are doing this all year round, 365 days a year," explained Do. "We've got the USA games coming up in July, and there are about 30 athletes from the Tri-Cities that will be competing. Which is amazing!"
The effects of the Special Olympics are felt by more than the athletes.
Folks at the plunge like 'Granny Grizz' push themselves too.
"Oh, it takes your breath away. There's just so many things at my age, my bad knees and my shoulder, and all of that kind of stuff, I can't do the things I used to do."
And that's why Allison said she keeps coming back.
She said it's the least she can do, "I already handle the physical, and emotional things that I'm going through with my husband in hospice, so I can walk down to the river and jump in for a good cause."