Polar Plunge returning for 2012

Plungers take to the water during last year's Polar Plunge at Oak Mountain State Park. This year's event will be held on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Soon after Pelham police officer Debbie Sumrall set a date for the 2012 Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge, she opened an almanac to see the weather forecast for Jan. 28, 2012.

“It said it was going to be sunny and cool,” Sumrall said with a laugh. “That sounds good to me.”

Last year’s Polar Plunge, the first one held in Shelby County to benefit the Law Enforcement Torch Run, featured temperatures in the low 60s and drew more than 50 participants who rushed into the deceptively chilly Oak Mountain State Park lake.

“We determined that the water was 46 degrees last year. We’ll see how cold it is this year,” Sumrall said.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is an international organization, and sponsors torch runs to dozens of Special Olympics events in nearly every state each year. Sumrall said she and other officers involved in the Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run decided to organize last year’s inaugural event after attending a torch run fundraising seminar.

“Each year, we have a conference that teaches us how to do fundraisers,” Sumrall said, noting she learned Maryland’s “Super Plunge” generates millions of dollars for Special Olympics each year.

Last year’s Polar Plunge at the Oak Mountain State Park beach drew a “great turnout for the first year,” Sumrall said.

“We had over 50 plungers last year, and we hope to double that this year,” she said. “A lot of people said they heard about it the day of the event or after it was over, and they said they wanted to be in it this year.”

Last year, several teams from across the Birmingham metropolitan area packed the OMSP beach wearing everything from police uniforms to long-john underwear. Several teams brought along giant inflatable ducks, some dressed like super heroes and all were shivering after exiting the chilly lake.

This year’s event will be held on Jan. 28 at the OMSP beach, which is located off Terrace Drive near the park office, and will begin at 10 a.m.

The event will feature McGruff the Crime Dog, a polar bear, a Scooby Doo fun jump, professional photography and music on the beach. Entrance to OMSP will be free the day of the plunge.

Sumrall said her favorite part of the event is “seeing the plungers’ faces as they hit the water” for the first time.

Individual plungers must raise at least $50 to participate in the event, but will receive greater incentives for raising more money. All money raised during the event will benefit the Alabama Special Olympics.

Plunge participants can register online at Alabamaletr.com.