The Foy pool is going to be absolutely arctic on Jan. 31 when students and faculty join in the fourth annual Polar Plunge to support the APSU SOS Food Pantry. Last year 200 people dove into a 45 degree pool – that’s 40 degrees below normal swimming temperature.

Participants pose for pictures after jumping in the water during the 2012 Polar Plunge | File photo

Participants pose for pictures after jumping in the water during the 2012 Polar Plunge | File photo

The plunge did not begin as a philanthropic event, Madelyn Fox explains. Fox is the aquatics coordinator at the Foy, and she has been to the last two Polar Plunges where she served as a lifeguard.

University Recreation and the SOS Food Pantry have been teaming up since Fall 2011, when they decided to take the existing event and turn it into a way for students to support their struggling classmates. According to Fox, the uniqueness of the activity and the opportunity to support a campus organization brings in their own slew of participants.

“Now some of the students are more motivated by the charity than just the novelty,” Fox said. “Our hope is that it becomes more of a donation-driven event.”

The SOS Food Pantry – established in 2011 by students – exists to provide hungry students with a meal when they need it to ensure that no student has to go without food.
This year participants must supply three canned goods as a fee to register before the day of the Polar Plunge, or they can bring five to register on the day of the event. With their registration, each student will receive their own Polar Plunge t-shirt.

Students can join in as individuals or as a team, and the team who gathers the most canned items gets a prize, a competitive element that Fox thinks will encourage more donations.As an added twist to the annual plunge, this year everyone is encouraged to participate in a costume contest.

APSU Tim President Hall has taken the plunge every year and he said that it is at the top of his list of favorite things to do. In the past Polar Plunges, he would jump in the freezing cold water wearing a suit and tie and proceed to swim a lap. He plans to do the same on Jan. 31.

“University presidents aren’t really supposed to do crazy things,” he said and continued, “This is one of the rare times that I get to do something crazy.” In addition to the crazy factor, Hall also appreciates the importance of supporting the SOS Food Pantry.

A polar plunge brings with it a unique set of safety concerns which Fox is very familiar with as a lifeguard. Although she said there have not yet been any accidents at this particular event, there are several dangers that the University Recreation staff has to prepare for.

“Even a healthy 20-something can jump in that pool and experience hypothermia or shock,” Fox said, “When a lifeguard has to get in that puts them at risk of the same thing.”

Due to the larger level of risk, University Recreation will have double the lifeguards on duty as well as many other members of the staff, all with first aid training.

To maintain an accident-free record, Fox thinks the most important thing students can do is get changed out of their wet clothes as quickly as possible. That issue solves itself usually; students generally have plenty of motivation themselves to get back to their dorm and into dry clothes.

Fox encourages undecided students to participate in the big event, she considers it a great way to combat the cabin fever that some experience around this time of year as well as a way for new students to get plugged in.