Plunge fundraiser goes pop


Maddison Houser

Eric Jankoski, co-sponsor of the Special Olympics Club, is excited about the new Polar Pop fundraiser.

Ethan Franco and Maddison Houser

In keeping with all of the changes brought about by the pandemic, the Polar Plunge is becoming the Polar Pop this year.

For the last nine years, Baldwin’s Special Olympics Club has participated in the Polar Plunge, a winter jump into cold water to raise money for the Special Olympics organization. In the early years, participants jumped into the Allegheny River, and in recent years they have jumped into a pool of cold water near Heinz Field.

Due to the pandemic, Special Olympics clubs throughout the state this year will hold their own Polar Pop events, in which participants will have cold water balloons dropped on their heads.

The new event is scheduled to take place at the high school stadium in the last week of February, with exact dates to be announced. There also will be backup dates in early March in case of weather issues. 

While Special Olympics club members love the original Polar Plunge, the group is still looking forward to the new event, club co-sponsor Eric Jankoski said.

We’re going to just make the best of it and move forward,” Jankoski said 

The chance to hold the event at Baldwin offers new possibilities, he said.

“The thing that we are most excited about is that we’ll be able to instead do an alternative event right here at BHS. There is the potential to get a ton more people involved in doing the Polar Pop, and then in turn hopefully raise even more money for Special Olympics,” Jankoski said

Freshman Elizabeth Langer said she will miss getting a chance to do the Plunge, but is looking forward to the Polar Pop. 

I’ve never done the real plunge, and I am a little disappointed that we couldn’t do it this year. I think the Polar Pop is definitely the next best thing,” Langer said. “I am happy that we still get to do it with our peers and in a school environment.” 

Senior Kathryn Iwaniuk agreed.

“I will miss the original Plunge because it was a great way to come together as a community,” said Iwaniuk, a veteran fundraiser for the event. “However, I think that this year’s Polar Pop will be a new and exciting way to continue on the tradition. I think it’s a great way to make the best out of a bad situation.”

Senior Samantha Lydon acknowledged that the Plunge is another fun experience that has been affected by COVID-19. But she also sees some advantages of the Polar Pop.

“I think it’s going to be really nice to be able to get in, get the balloon popped over my head, and hopefully get dry much faster than a normal year,” Lydon said.

The Special Olympics hopes to raise about $3,000 through the event. The 1Six Foundation, a non-profit group that honors the memory of late Baldwin student Ty Kesten, donated $500 toward that goal.

The event is open to staff and high school students, and coronavirus protocols will be followed. Remote students will have the opportunity to participate from home.

To register, visit: