Pelham Polar Plunge returns with large turnout

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2022

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer 

PELHAM – It wasn’t as cold as plunges of years past, but the Pelham Polar Plunge returned on Saturday, April 2 at Oak Mountain State Park. The 70-degree weather was a welcomed change to the large crowd that showed up for the annual event.

“I know today isn’t exactly ‘polar,’ but maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” said Pelham Police Chief Pat Cheatwood.

The event, which is usually held in January, allows groups of individuals to jump into cold waters to raise money for Special Olympics Alabama. This year’s plunge was postponed due to concerns over COVID-19.

The plunge is held every year by the Pelham Police Department and this year Publix served as the title sponsor, donating $10,000. All proceeds of the Polar Plunge go toward Special Olympics Alabama, and this year the total amount raised was $21,000. Other sponsors included Oak Mountain State Park, Southwest Water Co., Issis Furniture, Kirkland Wrecker Service, Wheeler Wrecker and AmFirst Bank.

Participants came ready to dive into the waters of Oak Mountain Beach, dressed in bathing suits and Publix T-shirts. While preparing for the plunge, there were local food trucks from Kona Ice and El Sabor Del Tamal. Participants danced to music with the Polar Plunge Polar bears and played volleyball as they waited for the event to start.

Before the plunge took place, the city of Pelham held a raffle for various prizes, and heard words of encouragement from guest speaker Jane Cameron, who has participated in Special Olympics events all over the world.

“This year is particularly important to us because we lost one of our own this year who this event was always very important to him,” Cheatwood said to the crowd. “This year is dedicated to Juan.”

Officer Juan Gomez died in August 2021 due to complications from COVID-19. Gomez was named this year’s Guardian of the Flame, and a special plaque was presented to his wife Katie and his children, Abbie and Eli.

“Juan was a man that never hesitated to offer a helping hand,” said Bob Copus, the law enforcement liaison to Special Olympics Alabama. “Any time I saw him he would tell me, ‘If you ever need anything let me know.’ He really loved this event and being able to help the athletes of Special Olympics.”