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Plungers prepare to get silly and chilly for Special Olympics

News Photo by Julie Riddle George Snedden displays a 2020 trophy for best polar plunge costume at his home on Friday.

ALPENA — Giving-hearted Alpenans are following the example of a plunger who wanted a plunger as they gear up for a frigid February dip for a good cause.

After a year’s freeze-out because of pandemic-related precautions, the annual Polar Plunge, sponsored locally by the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post, returns to the icy waters of Long Lake on Feb. 19.

More than 40 participants have already signed up to hurl themselves into a hole to help people facing physical hurdles to achieve their dreams, according to Trooper Robert Mitchell, community service trooper for the post.

Registration for the 2022 plunge continues until the time of the event, to be held, as in past years, at the Sand Bar and Grill in Alpena Township. Jumpers are busy collecting pledges to support Special Olympics Michigan, a sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities.

A gleaming, plunger-shaped statuette first convinced Alpena resident George Snedden to leap into Long Lake more than a decade ago.

News Photo by Julie Riddle George Snedden at his home on Friday displays his prized golden plunger trophy, won in his early years of jumping during the Alpena Polar Plunge.

After his fairy costume nearly won top honors the first time he joined the polar plunge, he began a quest to earn the coveted Golden Plunger award for best costume, Snedden said.

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After securing that prize, he discovered a desire to excel at raising money for the Special Olympics. Snedden has since become a fixture at the Apena event, routinely out-earning other jumpers in individual and group challenges.

The experienced jumper estimates he has earned about $25,000 during the Alpena plunges over the past 10-plus years.

“They call me, ‘The Legend,'” Snedden said, displaying an assortment of costumes – some made with care by his former special education teacher, now his costume designer – and trophies garnered at Long Lake.

News Photo by Julie Riddle At his home on Friday, George Snedden clowns around with Alpena Polar Plunge trophies won during the past decade.

The greatest joy of the jump, a victory even greater than his trophies, is the smiles on the faces of the athletes who get to compete at the Special Olympics, he said.

With personal experience as a special education student and a mother who worked in the mental health field, Snedden understands the value of a supportive community and wants to be that support for others.

“Show support any way that you can in your community,” Snedden urged. “It’s going to give back to you, one way or another.”

Several years ago, after another plunging victory, he announced his retirement from the event.

This year, at the request of Mitchell, Snedden agreed to plunge one last time, dressed as the Incredible Hulk.

Snedden promised supporters that, if donations for his jump total $5,000, event organizers can do whatever they like to his bushy, trademark beard.

His highest donation year fell short of $4,000, so he’s not worried.

Then again, Alpena residents are known for their generosity.

Donations to Snedden and 40-some other participating plungers can be made at tinyurl.com/245tja8y.

At this year’s plunge, organizers hope to top $15,000 in donations. Participants and their supportive donors have pledged nearly $8,000 already, with four weeks of fundraising to go.

If You Plunge

WHAT: Alpena Polar Plunge

WHEN: Feb. 19. Registration begins at noon, with costume parade and plunge beginning at 1:15 p.m., followed by awards and plunger after-splash bash.

WHERE: Sand Bar and Grill, 9027 W. Long Lake Rd., Alpena.

HOW MUCH: Free to participate, free to watch; food and beverage available for purchase.

INFO: Donate to a plunger or register to plunge at tinyurl.com/245tja8y. Participants may also register at the event. All proceeds will support Special Olympics Michigan.

Individuals or teams can earn a sweatshirt, backpack, and other incentive prizes based on pledge amounts.

Businesses interested in sponsoring the event can contact Trooper Robert Mitchell at the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post at 989-354-4101.

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