WIKY’s Debra Miller takes the plunge for a great cause 

Debra Miller wouldn’t wade through an ice-cold lake on a winter day just for fun. But the cause is a terrific one, she says.

The 18-year veteran of WIKY radio is gearing up for her fourth Polar Plunge, which supports training and competition opportunities for nearly 16,000 Special Olympics athletes throughout Indiana.

Photo provided by Debra Miller

The event starts at noon on Feb. 4 at Scales Lake Beach in Boonville, with registration starting at 10:30 a.m. in the Boonville High School cafeteria. An after-splash bash is also in the cafeteria, where, presumably, Miller and other plungers can enjoy some hot food and drink while they warm up.

“I’m happy to help out and go for a nice refreshing plunge in Scales Lake,” Miller tells [Evansville Living]. “I like the water. But I usually like it to be 80 degrees and warmer.”

Participants must raise an $85 minimum for Special Olympics. Miller’s own goal is $500, as it was for her previous three plunges. She’s reaching out to friends, local businesses, and her WIKY listeners, who can donate on her fundraising page.

“I’m not afraid to beg,” Miller said.

Dollars raised from Polar Plunge are vital, says Carla Knapp, director of marketing and communications for Special Olympics Indiana. There are 18 plunges across the state, and this is the first year since 2020 the event has returned without any COVID-19 restrictions.

“A lot of people don’t realize Special Olympics is a nonprofit organization,” Knapp says. “We don’t receive any public funds to support our programs. The Polar Plunge is really important for us to be able to provide year-round sports training and competition opportunities statewide, plus leadership, education, and health and fitness programs.

“It’s held at the start of the year, and it really determines the rest of the year and how it plays out for us,” Knapp adds. “In Boonville, we really appreciate everyone coming out year after year. It has been an ongoing event there for a number of years, and the community is so supportive.”

Photo provided by Special Olympics Indiana

As a veteran plunger, Miller is happy to share tips for any newcomers to the icy waters of Scales Lake.

“The first time, I had no idea what I was in for,” Miller says. “I hated myself for not doing more research. The most important thing I would recommend to anyone is to wear some shoes, any shoes. The ground is frozen, and it hurts (bare feet).”

It’s not necessary for plungers to get their head wet if they don’t want to, Miller says, adding that going into the lake donning multiple layers of clothes does not have the desired effect.

“The best thing to do is strip down and wear a bathing suit,” Miller said. “Jump in and have warm clothes waiting for you at the end. Otherwise, it weighs you down and you have wet clothing slapping against your skin.”

Plungers don’t have to stay in the water long. They can go straight from the entrance point to the exit point, where there’s a heated tent and dressing area. And this leads to Miller’s most important piece of advice for rookies.

“Make a run for it,” she says. “Don’t loiter. You get in and get out.”

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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