The University of Wisconsin Badgers 4 Special Olympics raised $3,445 this year through their annual Polar Plunge event.

The pandemic caused the event to look different this year, according to UW BFSO social chair Britta Hesselberg. Participants normally jump into freezing Lake Mendota, but Special Olympics had to get creative with how people could fundraise and stay involved, Hesselberg said.

“We saw such fun and creative plunges this year: from dumping buckets of ice water on each other, making snow angels on Bascom Hill, going tubing at Tyrol Basin and even zip-lining in freezing temperatures,” Hesselberg said in a written statement to The Badger Herald.

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UW football quarterback Graham Mertz was among the many participants. Mertz posted a video of himself sledding down Bascom Hill a few weeks ago to promote the fundraiser.

Hesselberg said the money raised from the event benefits Special Olympics Wisconsin, an organization whose mission is to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live inclusive, healthy and fun lifestyles.

Hesselberg said UW BFSO created “Cozy at Home” kits for participants who raised at least $75 for the plunge. The kits included restaurant coupons, a mug with hot chocolate, a Polar Plunge t-shirt and a polar bear-shaped cookie cutter, according to Hesselberg.

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BFSO board members brainstormed other ways for all members to stay involved and connected this semester despite the pandemic, Hesselberg said. Weekly events include a book club, a “Rocket League” video game league and a pen pal program.

“The atmosphere at our events is unmatched — everyone is kind, inclusive and genuine,” Hesselberg said. “I like to tell people that our members are like a family, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, et cetera are welcomed.”

UW BFSO will host a Zoom “Post Polar Plunge Party” Wednesday to celebrate participants’ hard work and wrap up the Plunge season, Hesselberg said.

The Zoom party will include icebreakers, a video of SOWI athlete David Thompson speaking about the Plunge, Zoom Pictionary, Plunge-themed snack tutorials and then a wrap-up, Hesselberg said.