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Dwight returns to Iowa City for Polar Plunge

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | MARCH 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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Around 300 people on Saturday, including former Hawkeye and NFL star Tim Dwight, will plunge into the Coralville Reservoir to help support 11,050 Iowa Special Olympians.

The Iowa City Polar Plunge, established four years ago by the Special Olympics Iowa and Joyce Rossi, an administrative assistant in the Iowa athletics department, is scheduled to begin at noon.

The event helps raise money for the Special Olympic athletes to attend three winter tournaments. Rossi said in order to house the athletes, it will cost between $60,000 and $70,000.

According to the Special Olympics Iowa website, the organization has raised $44,781.97.

“Special Olympic athletes are truly fabulous,” Rossi said. “What you see is what you get. They are so appreciative of anything and everything you do for them. You see the joy and appreciation, and to know that you’ve made just a little bit of a difference, you just can’t get that anywhere.”

Rossi first became involved in the Special Olympics 18 years ago, when her husband’s company sponsored a Special Olympics event. She quickly became enamored and now dedicates much of her time to the cause.

Last year, the Polar Plunge drew approximately 200 participants. This year, Rossi said, the event has drawn approximately 300.

Those interested can register up until the event begins.

One contributing factor to the larger turnout probably is the presence of celebrity plunger Dwight.

Dwight, who will participate in the event for the first time, said Rossi asked him to join in six months ago when he was in town.

“It’s not always an even playing field for everyone that comes into this world,” he said. “I think it’s important for people who can, give back and donate their time to help these people in need and people who need help to accomplish some things.

“I spent some time at the Coralville Reservoir but never in March.”

Special Olympics Director of Development Jeanette Steinfeldt said the Polar Plunge is an interesting way for people to show their support for the Special Olympics.

“The Polar Plunge makes it possible for us to underwrite the cost to fund the Midwinter Tournament,” she said. “Because of that, when the athletes arrive in Iowa City, everything is paid for — including their lodging and meals.”

Along with Dwight, several student organizations have members participating. Tau Kappa Epsilon may be the most represented with 39 members registered and $2,910.37 raised.

Dwight, who now lives in the San Diego area, said he doesn’t get to Iowa City as often as he would like, but the Polar Plunge is one event he would like to continue to see grow.

“I plan on being a returnee at this event,” he said. “With the amount of money they are raising, they can do great things. If my name in Iowa can bring more people out in Iowa to support something like this, I’m all for it.”


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