The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 12, 2013

Special people, Special Olympics

Annual Winter Games exciting, successful

— Mother Nature has been cooperative. So have those wacky Polar Plungers. The slopes are primed and the ice pristine.

From all we’ve heard, read and seen, it so far has been another exciting, entertaining and highly successful Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.

And there is more to come. Another full slate of competitions will be held today, followed by awards presentations and the closing ceremonies.

For 12 consecutive years, the Johnstown region has proudly proclaimed to be home to this wonderful winter event, now in its 37th year overall.

On hand are about 350 athletes from more than

21 counties across the state, plus others from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and a pool of 1,000 volunteers to make it all happen.

Toss into the mix athletes’ family members and other onlookers and you can realize how important the Special Olympics are for our local economy.

Just how much this region has taken this event under its wing shows in the growth year after year of the popular Laurel Highlands Polar Plunge.

On Saturday, more than 450 people jumped into the frigid waters of the Quemahoning Reservoir near Boswell.

Armed with sponsorships, these hearty souls braved 24 degree outside temperatures and water temperatures in the mid-30s to take their dive. The event raised about $50,000 for the Special Olympics.

Huge indeed.

Jim Burton, WJAC television meteorologist and board member of Special Olympics, said his plunge group is on track to make this a $100,000 annual event.

We’re betting it will happen. Vehicles of plunge participants, onlookers, cheerleaders and sponsors Saturday filled all nearby parking lots and extended for more than a half-mile along the Que road.

This was the third year for the Polar Plunge, which attracted 44 participants in the first year and nearly 200 last year. 

Today’s events will take place at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Planet Ice in Richland Township and at Hidden Valley and Blue Knob ski resorts.

Good luck and enjoy the day.

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