Polar Plunge prevails over pandemic

Published 3:55 pm Sunday, April 3, 2022

By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer

For many years, participants of Pelham’s annual Polar Plunge have braved frigid lake water at Oak Mountain State Park to raise money for Special Olympics of Alabama.

The event usually occurs in January, right in the middle of the winter season, but organizers decided to reschedule this year’s Polar Plunge from Jan. 22 to April 2 in the interest of everyone’s health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the temperature outside hovering around 70 degrees, the 2022 Polar Plunge might have lacked the extreme chill of years past, but it garnered just as much support for Special Olympics, an organization that provides sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

In keeping with tradition, police officers in full uniform joined other participants in taking the plunge.

The Polar Plunge is sponsored by the Pelham Police Department and the Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

Publix was the title sponsor of the 2022 Polar Plunge, donating $10,000, and other sponsors included Oak Mountain State Park, Southwest Water Co., Issis Furniture, Kirkland Wrecker Service, Wheeler Wrecker and AmFirst Bank.

This year’s event raised a total of nearly $21,000 for Special Olympics—and it served as an opportunity to honor the memory of former Pelham police officer Juan Gomez, who died last year following complications from COVID-19.

“This year is dedicated to Juan,” Pelham Police Chief Pat Cheatwood said of Gomez, noting the Polar Plunge was an important event to him.

Gomez was named this year’s Guardian of the Flame, for which a commemorative plaque was presented to his wife, Katie, and children, Abbie and Eli.

It’s encouraging to see such a worthwhile event receive the support it needs, especially after facing challenges brought on by the pandemic.

I commend the Pelham Police Department and many others, from sponsors to participants to volunteers and more, for their efforts to continue “taking the plunge” for a wonderful cause.