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[Audio] Take a "Big Jump in a Cold Lake" for West Ky Special Olympics

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

West Kentucky Special Olympics is gearing up for their signature fundraising event: the polar plunge at Kentucky Dam Village. On Sounds Good, Austin Carter speaks with regional director Laura Miller about the event, the toss your boss challenge and how Special Olympics is a life-changing opportunity for kids year-round.

The Polar Plunge is February 20 at Kentucky Dam Village. It's the seventh year for the event and continues to grow in participants. The day starts with a polar 5K run/walk, converging in the convention center for a costume contest and opening ceremonies. Awards are given for costumes and teams. They'll then to walk to the courtesy dock and take the plunge - "a big jump in a cold lake."

To register for the plunge, to join the "too chicken to plunge" category, or to make a donation, see information at the Kentucky Plunge website.

Special Olympics was founded in the 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The organization has had a presence in Kentucky for 45 years, with local events starting at Murray State University. The local organization formally started in 2006, with two athletes and has since grown to over 100 participants. Special Olympics is involved in year-round sports training and competition, Miller says.

With young athletes in programs for ages 2-7 to a new program called "project unifier" - a youth-led initiative for students with and without disabilities coming together for an activities and awareness campaign. She says these kids are exposed to a "new normal" where they learn inclusion, acceptance and differences and work together towards a common goal.

Miller says she hears stories from teachers about how students for years and never heard them speak until they participated in the Special Olympics and wore their medal, or parents who share how they got to see their child as part of something rather than being a loner on the side. It's life changing, she says.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
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