Angela Kell of York leaving the Susquehanna River after taking Polar Bear Plunge on February 4, 2012.
Angela Kell of York leaving the Susquehanna River after taking Polar Bear Plunge on February 4, 2012. (Bil Bowden/Dispatch file photo)

Are you a chicken or a polar bear?

You have a chance to find out at the Special Olympics York County's fifth annual Polar Bear Plunge at noon Saturday, Feb. 15, in the Susquehanna River at the John Wright Building of Donsco Inc., 124 N. Front St. in Wrightsville.

The Polar Bear Plunge theme is "Freezin' for a Reason."

The event invites volunteers to "plunge" into the frigid waters of the Susquehanna River to raise money for Special Olympics York County, which provides free training and competition events for about 350 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The organization also has an athlete leadership team, through which officials and athletes do speaking engagements to educate the public about the Special Olympics and its participants, said Robyn Liggins-Smith, the organization's public relations coordinator.

Money raised from the Polar Bear Plunge pays for athletes' participation in games locally, nationally and internationally, she said.

People who are too afraid to plunge participate as "chickens" who help raise money and cheer on the plungers.

Plungers: Last year, about 1,500 plungers helped raise more than $100,000 for the Special Olympics, Liggins-Smith said.

About that many plungers are expected this year, she said. No fund-raising goal has been set, she said.

Plungers participate as individuals or as teams. To raise money, plungers collect donations from sponsors who pledge whatever amount they choose.

Many plungers compete for prizes in a costume contest that is part of the event.

Before the plungers hit the water, there will be an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. with a cheer presentation by the Special Olympics spirit squad. The costume contest and parade are at 10:45 a.m.

The chicken dance is at 11:15 a.m. with the Golden Plunger Awards scheduled for 15 minutes later.

Then at 11:45 a.m., the plungers will assemble for the water. They will be led to the river by a group of Special Olympics athletes while bystanders cheer them all on.

"It's a party," Liggins-Smith said.

—Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438.