Teams and individuals are competing to raise money for Area 17 Special Olympics leading up to the Polar Bear Plunge Feb. 1, when costumed locals will take a winter swim in Lake Bennett at Woolly Hollow State Park.

In 2013, locals raised more than $12,500 for the five-county central Arkansas program, which provides opportunity for year-round training and competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Teams consist of representatives from area churches, law enforcement, fire departments, churches, schools, businesses and city and county offices.

Groups and individuals are encouraged to dress up for the plunge, and the best costume wins.

Last year’s costume winners were from Westside Elementary, according to chairperson Brenda Dowdy.

The team was dressed as the stars of Duck Dynasty.

The team that raised the most money was SWN of Damascus.

Registration is available online at, Polar Plunge.

Participants may also register just before the event at 11:30 a.m. Feb. A dessert auction is scheduled at noon, and the plunge is at 1 p.m.

Dowdy said with money raised at the event, athletes will be able to access equipment for training and will have the opportunity to travel out of town for tournaments.

At least three Area 17 athletes, including Thomas Driesenga of Independent Living Services, will be traveling to national games this year.

For more information about the Polar Bear Plunge, contact Brenda Dowdy at 501-450-0395.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism)