July 20th, 2024

Taking a frigid plunge for Special Olympics


By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on February 6, 2024.

Herald photos by Justin Seward Cardiologist Sayeh Zielke takes the plunge in style, donning a red tutu and tiara as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge this past weekend at Henderson Lake.

A group of brave souls jumped into the soggy and cold conditions on Saturday for a dip in Henderson Lake to raise money for the Special Olympics Alberta through the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge.

“We ask people to come out and jump into a perfectly freezing body of water all in an effort to raise funds for Special Olympics, said Matt Burton, event coordinator for Lethbridge’s Polar Plunge.

Burton says they do say that cold plunges are good for the health.

“It’s a little bit of shocking experience if you’ve never done it before,” said Burton.

It was before Burton was involved with Law Enforcement Torch Run that he had the opportunity to interact with intellectually challenged people.

“It kind of struck heartstrings with me and I’ve met a lot of our athletes down here and they’re friends, they’re colleagues, they’re great people to be around,” said Burton.

“And to see the joy in their face when they compete through sport, there’s nothing better.”

Burton plunged for the 12th time on Saturday.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen took the plunge wearing a wig, ballcap and sunglasses.

“Great cause each and every year,” said Hyggen.

“It’s a great idea until they actually stand out there. But you know what, all in all what a great initiative and for Special Olympics, I couldn’t be happier.”

It was important for Hyggen to be there just to support Special Olympians.

“It’s unbelievable what they do and to see and give the opportunity to excel in their sport and stuff (by) offering them the opportunity for travel to other areas to compete, it’s just unbelievable.”

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh opened up the event by taking the first plunge.

Mehdizadeh said Special Olympians are amazing people.

“Some of the purest kind hearted people I’ve ever met,” he said.

“I always tell everyone when you do the polar plunge, it may be cold and freezing in the water, but one part of your body that always stays warm is your heart because you know you’re do something good for them.”

Local cardiologist Sayeh Zielke took the plunge as a part of a Lethbridge Police Service team.

“I have a lot of respect and admiration for the incredible athletes that participate in the Special Olympics,” said Zielke.

“And when this idea was brought forward, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to participate and show them our support and appreciation for everything that they do.”

Zielke was recognized as being one of the higher donors of $2,800.

A total of 37 people participated on Saturday.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run has been around since 1981 when it started in Wichita, Kansas and came to Canada in 1987.

Lethbridge raised just shy of $20,000 for the Special Olympics and the goal is to raise $175,000 through all six Polar Plunges in Alberta.

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