Though the sun was bright and warm on Monday, the water was still icy cold for the nearly 120 people and one “buffalo” who dared to jump into the lake at the East Gallatin Recreation Area.
The final count was not available immediately after the event, but it appears this year’s President’s Plunge raised more than $36,000 for Special Olympics Montana.
That’s $10,000 more than last year, organizers said.
Typical of Bozeman’s plunge, costumes and silly team names abounded Monday.
Sisters Salon Superheroes consisted of four women in blazingly bright bob wigs - Sunny Arts, Sara Kantorowicz, Charli Love and Kylee Rodriguez — who raised more than $500.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Restoration sent a team of people and, um, one buffalo to jump.
And Team Renegades/Bobcats, including more than a dozen area Special Olympic athletes, also took to the chilly waters and then pretty much took over the Mountain Hot Tubs spa immediately after their plunge.
Event organizer and Bozeman police officer Peggy Ash said the increased donations were probably due to the hard work undertaken by the area management team who actively recruited businesses to participate.
And it seems their efforts were not wasted.
Murdoch’s Maniacs, a team of 22 from the home and ranch store, brought in more than $15,000 alone and were the first to leap into the large, rectangular hole cut in the ice.
The maniacs were the state’s top fundraising team by a wide margin, according to FirstGiving.com - a website where people can make pledges.
The website was likely another reason this year’s plunge was so successful, said Mary Armstrong, Big Sky Area Management Team member. Though Special Olympics Montana has been using FirstGiving since 2005, the organization did a better job informing people about it this year.
Between polar plunges and the law enforcement torch run that takes place each spring, law enforcement officers statewide raised $500,000 for Special Olympics last year, Ash said.
The money raised at plunges throughout the state goes entirely to Special Olympics Montana - 60 percent to area athletes’ travel expenses to regional and state games, Armstrong said. The remainder goes to state Special Olympics.
“So the more that we can raise in our area, the more opportunities there are for local athletes to participate,” she said.
The Gallatin Valley has about 170 Special Olympians. Some will travel to Moonlight Basin next week for the regional winter games and to Billings for the state games in the spring.
In 2009, when the Special Olympics World Winter Games were in Boise, Idaho, 40 athletes and 24 chaperones had funds to charter buses to attend.
“It was inspiring,” Armstrong said.