Eric Frisk stood toward the back of a line of people waiting to jump into Boulder Reservoir at Saturday's Special Olympics Colorado Polar Plunge. With the first plunge still more than 15 minutes away, Frisk was already shirtless.
But the near-freezing weather didn't seem to bother him.
"I got the polar pudge," said the 250-pound Frisk, 28. "So I think I'm a little more naturally susceptible to the cold."
Donning a cupid costume, complete with a diaper, handcrafted wings and a miniature bow-and-arrow set, Frisk was one of more than 500 people to dust off their Halloween bins and go for a swim in the reservoir's 35-degree water.
"It's a little cold, but it only hurts for a minute," said Special Olympics Colorado CEO Mindy Watrous, just moments before it began snowing. "We're out here freezin' for a reason."
The reason, Watrous said, is that the organization raises all of its money through community fundraising. With no federal funding and no athlete member fees, events like the Polar Plunge are critical to the more than 12,000 Special Olympics athletes across Colorado. Fundraising is open through the end of March, but as of plunge time, the participants had raised about $57,000.
The event is just one in a three-part series; hundreds of people took a charity dip in Colorado Springs' Prospect Lake on Feb. 2, with another wave of plungers scheduled for Feb. 23 at Aurora Reservoir.
With the money raised by the Polar Plunge series, Special Olympics Colorado is able to cover many of the costs for competitions and equipment for its 22 sports. The events combined to raise about $215,000 last year. But Waltrous is optimistic that they'll eclipse that figure this year.
"It touches my heart," she said. "This takes a certain amount of bravery, and for people to care enough about our athletes to do this is just an honor.
Nearly a quarter of all plungers Saturday represented the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the Special Olympics' largest single grassroots fundraising vehicle. Since its inception in 1981, the organization has raised close to $500 million.
"It was pretty cold," said Sgt. Dave Seper, after his team, the "Boulder Police Copsicles", had hopped out of the reservoir. "I'm glad I only do it once a year, but it's exhilarating and there's no better way to show support than being willing to jump in that water for somebody's cause."
The Copsicles were the first group to plunge, followed soon after by the Broomfield and Greeley Police Departments.
Jessica Boisseaux represented a team of onesie-clad schoolteachers, and she said the special needs students at Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School were her inspiration Saturday. With four career plunges under her belt, Boisseaux, 22, knows the drill:
"Right before you get in there's a lot of anticipation. Getting in kind of takes your breath away, but getting out and hearing everybody cheering makes it all worth it."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1361 or email@example.com.