Hundreds take the plunge for Special Olympics Missouri

652 people took the 2014 plunge, a record in the event's 19-year history.

A public beach at Lake of the Ozarks became a party zone Saturday, as hundreds of people gathered to jump into frigid water to help raise money for the Special Olympics.

Overall, 654 people took the plunge Saturday, a record in the event's 19-year history. The last record was set in 2012 when 611 people braved the cold water.

Nearly everyone participating was wearing some type of costume, from pirates to men and women wearing toilet plungers on their head.

"This is for Special Olympics," said Forrest Cunningham. "You cannot beat Special Olympics because look at all these people, they love it, and they love us."

Forrest Cunningham's team "The Golden Plungers" won first place in the costume contest in 2013. "We've dressed up as nearly everything," Cunningham said. "This year, it's plungers spray painted gold."

Fortunately for the plungers, the air temperature was moderately warm; it hovered around 60 degrees for most of the afternoon.

However, the temperature of the water was a lot colder, around 34 degrees.

"All of these other people can lie to you and tell you that it's not that bad, but they're lying," said Captain John Wheeler of the Cole County Sheriff's Office. "We don't like jumping in cold water, but it's for a great cause."

In the end, the plungers hope to raise $200,000 for Special Olympics Missouri. As of Saturday morning, they had raised $163,000 in pledges. Organizers say they expect to exceed their goal.