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Freezin' for a reason: Annual Polar Plunge raises $12,000 for Special Olympics North Dakota

People were "Freezing for a Reason" at the sixth annual Dickinson Polar Plunge on Saturday. Cool temperatures and cloudy skies didn't stop more than 30 people from jumping into some cold water as a part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics North ...

People were "Freezing for a Reason" at the sixth annual Dickinson Polar Plunge on Saturday. Cool temperatures and cloudy skies didn't stop more than 30 people from jumping into some cold water as a part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics North Dakota.

Event organizer Ryan Kilwein said around $12,000 was raised this year. Kilwein started the Dickinson Polar Plunge six years ago and has been coaching for Special Olympics North Dakota for about 12 years. Kilwein said a friend had asked him if he wanted to partner in soccer for the organization and ended up falling in love with the organization.

"Just the excitement and attitude from the athletes, win or lose, (keeps me going each year)," Kilwein said.

The Polar Plunge is organized by community volunteers and is part of the year-round Law Enforcement Torch Run program to raise awareness and funds to support physical fitness and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The plunge offers a unique opportunity for individuals, organizations and businesses to support Special Olympics athletes by raising money and taking leap into cold North Dakota waters.

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The Dickinson Rural Fire Department helped set up a plunge tank in the Cashwise parking lot on Saturday afternoon.

Katee Rafferty has been jumping at the Polar Plunge for four years. She said Special Olympics is important to Dickinson and North Dakota.

"My nephew is a Special Olympics athlete and through my job I work with people who have developmental disabilities or physical disabilities, so for us it's a very personal journey," she said. "... The program is so vitally important to our community."

Kilwein noted that the community is a very important part of the event, along with many others that keep making the event successful each year.

"I couldn't do it without our area management team, sponsors, Dickinson Rural Fire Department and our community," Kilwein said.

Danielle Salo has been a part of the Polar Plunge in Dickinson since its inception.

"I'm a Special Olympics coach, so I just really enjoy the cause," she said.

While highs were around 40 degrees on Saturday, Salo said that didn't help the water temperatures.

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"It was freezin', for a reason," Salo said with a smile.

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