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Polar Plunge, island style

WAILUA — Who needs an ice bucket challenge when you can dive into a pool full of ice-cold water?

Rainfall on a Saturday morning at Wailua Houselots Park usually means that kids and adults won’t be showing up to play. But for Kauai Special Olympics, the rainy weather was the perfect way to kick off the annual fundraising event, the Polar Plunge.

After all, the kids were going to get soaked anyway.

Sliding down a wet slide into three inflatable pools of ice-cold water was on the agenda for those in attendance Saturday morning to help raise money for upcoming sporting events for the Special Olympics.

“I’ve been a part of Special Olympics since I was in middle school and I’m in ninth-grade now. I can’t participate in the sports events, but I decided to come down and come back to my roots and help with Polar Plunge,” said Hi’ilani Chow, who was the second participant to plunge into the icy water.

The first brave soul to immerse herself in the freezing conditions was Miss Hawaii Jr. High Kinohi Na’ihe who, both literally and figuratively, broke the ice.

Delegates from Kauai and Kapaa high schools and Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School were in attendance, including Chiefess’ band teacher Sarah Tochiki, who took a plunge into the ice water along with her students.

For Mahina Waiwaiole, it was the second year in a row she participated in the plunge. But no matter how many times she does it, there’s no adjusting to the freezing temperatures.

“It’s a lot of fun to do. This is my second time doing it. My favorite part is going down the slide. Going down the slide is so cold. It was like this last year, too,” she told The Garden Island.

Jocelyn Barriga, Kauai Special Olympics area coordinator, was pleased with the turnout this year, despite the bad weather.

“Having fun is the main thing,” she said. “It started on the Mainland where people would plunge during the winter into a pond, but we don’t have that so we did our own thing this way. It’s an event for Special Olympics, it’s a nationwide event. We have delegations from around the island that range from the age of 8 to our oldest delegate, who’s 68 years old.”

There was no minimum or maximum amount that a person could pledge. Barriga was pleased to see so many people wanting to help out the Special Olympics while also enjoying themselves.

“The pledges can be anything. If you collect $100 in pledges, you get a free Polar Plunge shirt and if you raise $300, you get a shirt and a towel. Our goal today is $7,500. We make around $5,000 on average each year that we do this and this is probably our fifth or sixth year doing this,” she told TGI.

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