Scottsbluff, Chadron Polar Plunges raise money for Special Olympics Nebraska

February 22, 2019 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — Panhandle residents willing to plunge into bone-chilling waters have two opportunities this weekend to freeze for a good cause. The annual Polar Plunge takes place this weekend in Scottsbluff and Chadron to raise money for Special Olympics Nebraska.

Regardless of which event you choose to participate in, the day is about having fun for a cause. Organizers encourage participants to dress up or come with a team theme.

“The wackier, the better,” Melissa Nicholson, organizer of the Chadron Polar Plunge, said.

Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman said fundraising for the eighth annual Polar Plunge, which takes place on the first giving website, has been going well. Those who wish to participate can register there ahead of the event, but there is no requirement that they do so.

“People can just show up on the day of the event,” Overman said.

Participants in the Panhandle Polar Plunge take a dip, dive or plunge into the North Platte River before making a 50-yard dash to a portable hot tub.


“We encourage people to get wet,” Overman said.

After the event, participants and spectators receive a hot meal made by members of the Special Olympics and their families while awards and prizes are handed out.

Though participants in Chadron are not jumping into a river like their Scottsbluff counterparts, they will still feel the chill of helping a good cause. At the second annual Polar Plunge in Chadron, plungers will jump into an icy tank of water at 950 W. 10th St., in Chadron.

“The fire department comes out and brings their portable tank,” Nicholson said of the Chadron Polar Plunge. “They set it out for us and fill it with water.”

Overman has been participating in Special Olympic events since the Torch Run began in the 1980s. That event saw members of law enforcement run from western Nebraska to the state capitol in Lincoln. Most Special Olympics events are local in the state today and Overman has participated every year in the Panhandle Polar Plunge.

“I do it for Special Olympics,” Overman said. “I’ve been a fan of Special Olympics since I saw a documentary (about it) in the 1970s.”

As soon as the law enforcement Torch Run started, he became involved, but his reasons behind it are the participants. Overman said although participants have a lot of challenges in life, he enjoys seeing their appreciation, their successes and how happy they are.

“These families live with their situation every day and this gives them success in their lives,” Overman said. “That’s who I do it for.”

The event in Chadron began because organizers wanted to do a bigger fundraiser to make the community aware of Special Olympics. Last year, their organization raised about $6,000. The Panhandle Polar Plunge in Scottsbluff raised nearly $20,000 in 2018.

Over the years, Overman said he is pleased with the transparency of everyone involved with Special Olympics Nebraska.


“A lot of the money goes directly to the local team — we have two,” Overman said. “Some of it goes to the state, but they have expenses, too.”

Many of the expenses for athletes are covered when they go to the state trials.

“I am happy with how it runs,” Overman said. “For a lot of people, the Polar Plunge is for a great cause.”

Check-in for the Panhandle Polar Plunge begins at 9 a.m. and plunging begins at 10:30 a.m.

Registration for the Chadron Polar Plunge is at 2:30 p.m. and plunging begins at 3:30 p.m. A minimum of $50 in donations per plunger is required, regardless of individual or team participation.

“We encourage each participant to raise as much money as possible for the cause,” Nicholson said. “After all, you’re freezing for a reason.”

For more information on the Panhandle Polar Plunge, visit

For more information on each on the Chadron Polar Plunge, visit