Locals ready to plunge!

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 7, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

One year ago, Georgette Bridger was watching the evening news on television. A feature on a recent fundraising event in Virginia Beach came on, and Bridger couldn’t quite believe her eyes: there, in the freezing February air, over 2,700 people charged down the sands of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront (on the beaches near Seventh Street), took a dip in the icy water, and hauled back out again! Not only that, but they seemed to be having the time of their lives, dousing themselves in the frigidity of a wet winter afternoon!

&uot;My first thought was, ‘Tho-se people must be crazy!’&uot; says Bridger, a former math/science/literature instructor at King’s Fork Middle School. &uot;But then I found out that the event benefited the local Special Olympics.&uot;

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She’d seen a glimpse of the 10th Annual ‘Polar Plunge’ event, in which Hampton Roads residents, often through the givings of sponsors, raise money for Special Olympics Virginia (SOV) The organization gives the 13,000 Virginians with some type of mental retardation a chance to training and compete in a year-round program of 22 different sports. Last year, the record turnout for the event raised over $225,000 for the organization.

&uot;I’d always wanted to do something to help SOV,&uot; said Bridger, whose brother, Kevin Warner, has worked in SOV in Portsmouth for a decade. On Saturday morning, Bridger will get her chance; she’ll be one of the projected 3,000 participants in &uot;Polar Plunge XI.&uot;

To raise her own funding, Bridger handed her former colleagues at KFMS a choice: &uot;I told them that they could either jump with me or sponsor me!&uot; she laughs. She hopes to raise over $500 for the event.

&uot;When I told my students, they thought it was funny. In a few days, it was all over school. Some of them thought I was having a mid-life crisis! They always thought I was really conservative and straight-laced, and I think this helped them see a new side of me.&uot;

She’ll have some company in the water: her son Andrew Raike and stepson Dean Bridger Jr.

&uot;It sounds like something cool,&uot; said Raike, fully intending the pun. &uot;I want the whole Lakeland High School wres-tling team to come down and watch us.&uot; He’s a member of the team.

&uot;I think that everyone should do at least one crazy thing in their lives,&uot; concurs Bridger Jr. &uot;(Georgette) told me what the Plunge was for, and it seemed like a fun thing to do.&uot;

Michael Clark and his girlfriend Amy Andersen feel the same way; they were part of last year’s event, and intend to do it again this time around.

&uot;It’s important to raise money for SOV, because there’s never enough for uniforms and other team expenses,&uot; says Andersen, who has been coaching volleyball, basketball and track and field for the organization for three years. &uot;Besides, some of my athletes would never forgive me if I didn’t do it!&uot;

Clark teaches swimming and volleyball for SOV, and would like to see a team from Suffolk someday (he and Andersen coach in Virginia Beach). &uot;I’m just going to stay in the water for a brief moment!&uot; he says. &uot;You usually don’t get to see many of the athletes that you don’t coach, but things like the Plunge lets you meet everyone.&uot; The couple has raised nearly $650 for the event, mostly from donations from co-workers (Clark works for C.W. Brinkley Construction Co., Andersen for Wartsilla Lips, a Chesapeake subcontracting company).