About 130 people jumped into Lake Kohlmeier in Owatonna Saturday to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota. Several were taking the leap for the first time. But for many this an annual tradition. For Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson it was his 136th plunge. Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele joined him to open the event with his seventh such plunge. Thiele will join Torgerson again for the Polar Plunge in Rochester February 9-10.

Saturday's event in Owatonna raised thousands of dollars to support the 8,200 statewide Special Olympians. In its first three years, the plunge in Owatonna has generated over $100,000 with over 500 individuals jumping into the lake.

The Polar Plunge is a program of law enforcement across the state, including the Steele County Sheriff's Office and Owatonna Police Department. Local sponsors of the plunge included the Owatonna Scuba Diving Club, City of Owatonna, KRFO / Kat Kountry 105 and the Owatonna Parks and Recreation Department.

Saturday's pageantry began with Kate Seifert singing the National Anthem and Lezlie Gustafson stating the Special Olympics oath, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Gustafson was one of several Owatonna-area athletes to jump into Lake Kohlmier. Sam Mullenbach plunged in as the Cat-in-The-Hat with Things One through Six joining him.

One group put on a short baseball skit while dressed in Minnesota Twins' jerseys. A group of firefighters jumped in fully decked out in fire gear. Several groups had matching t-shirts. Another group was dressed as lumberjacks. Several simply wore a bathing suit on the 29-degree afternoon. Federated Insurance had a large group of employees take part.

The Owatonna Knights of Columbus presented the Owatonna Area Special Olympics organization with proceeds from last summer's Smokin' in Steele BBQ contest. The donation is $8,500.

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