Polar Plunge warms the heart of long-time Special Olympics Coach

Young man and a woman leaning close together, both of them smiling.

After last year’s brutally cold dip in Alum Creek, Laura DeWert felt more than ready to retire from the signature Special Olympics fundraiser. She even announced her intention. And then, a few weeks ago, she signed up for what will be her 16th Polar Plunge.

“Just like Tom Brady, I can’t quite quit,” she said.

DeWert is hooked on both her Franklin County Flyers volunteerism and her lifelong passion for inclusion. Though she now works for a finance company, she created her own “exceptional persons” major program in college, had a job in the disabilities field for a while, and has been a volunteer for 35 years.

What drew you to the disability community?

When I was in school, I always volunteered in the special ed classes. There was a gal named Amy who was blind. I’d go and read with her, and we got to be good friends. I learned a lot from her about the assumptions people make. She was my earliest example of, “Why are people separated?” When I see someone excluded, I just don’t get it. We’re all humans.

Describe what it’s like to jump into an ice-cold body of water on a freezing winter day.

I love the event. And yes, it feels terrible! I’ve run into lakes and rivers, reservoirs, dunk tanks and pools. One year the pool collapsed, and they ended up spraying us with a fire hose. Another time, it was so cold there was almost 11 inches of ice in the pool, and they brought jackhammers. At times I’ve felt like my eyeballs truly were frozen.

You and Flyers athlete Colton Showalter are a dynamic duo, right?

Colton is my partner for the Plunge. Over the years, we’ve been on the cover of newspapers, on TV, on social media. We’ve both said before that we’re retiring. And then he’s like, “Plunge, Plunge, Plunge…” We’re raising lots of money, and it’s for a good cause.

Sounds like you leave with more than goosebumps and sniffles.

People ask me why I do the things I do. Well, I am kind of selfish. This fills my cup. I love it.

The Polar Plunge is set for Feb. 11 at the Columbus Crew’s Lower.com field. To join or support the Franklin County Special Olympics team, go to https://give.sooh.org/team/461412

Colton and Coach Laura really felt the chill during the 2022 Polar Plunge at Alum Creek State Park. The two have been Plunge partners for years.