I met nearly 175 people who are braver than I am on Saturday. Those fearless souls jumped into Owatonna's Lake Kohlmier to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.

It was the first time for the Polar Plunge to come to Owatonna, one of 20 plunges in 2015. Each plunger raised pledges, which will benefit more than 8,000 Special Olympics athletes around the state. Owatonna has a team of about 100, who compete in the year-round sports program.

I had the pleasure to emcee the event. It was a natural for me. Both as an announcer for KRFO / Kat Kountry 105, which helped sponsor the event, and as a member on the management team for the Owatonna Area Special Olympics. For a January day, it was a nice day for a (quick, really quick) swim. Skies were overcast, the wind was light and the temperature was in the 20s. The cloud cover forced the cancellation of the planned sky dive onto the lake.

Some who jumped were long-time veterans. Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson has jumped 125 times. He seemed to have forgotten his swimming gear, however, jumping into Lake Kohlmier in full uniform. His Steele County counterpart, Lon Thiele, was a member of a large local law enforcement contingent jumping on Saturday. He was taking his first plunge. By the way, the Rochester plunge is Feb. 14, not a bad way to spend Valentine's Day morning.

Many of Saturday's plungers were first-timers. Some were jumping for a specific athlete. Some as part of a team from their place of employment. Some had to be begged and begged and begged to jump. Quite a few had matching t-shirts with their team name. Costumes included rock stars and pirates, even a bride and groom (talk about taking the plunge). There was even one person in a bikini. From belly flops to cannon balls and a few who "walked the plank," the cold water waited ominously.

Some looked like it was no big deal. They had a look of eagerness on their face. I could only imagine what their face showed after jumping in, as I could only see the backs of their heads from the jump deck. Be sure to watch some of the video of the plungers and their reactions.

A few looked pretty scared and needed a little encouragement. When they stepped onto the carpeted deck that hung out over the water, it was a point-of-no-return. But the countdown from the crowd and a little assistance from their teammates made the jump possible. A warm tent awaited them just a few feet away, but it still took a great amount of bravery to plunge.

Think about the leap necessary to get Special Olympics started. In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for children with intellectual disabilities because they didn't have a good place to play. Special Olympics has grown to be the largest sports organization in the world, with more than 4 million athletes of all ages in more than 170 countries. We all know the importance of physical fitness, and the chance to socialize at these events. It's a shame to think there wasn't that opportunity at one time for these athletes.

As a volunteer with the Owatonna Area Special Olympics, I see the joy the athletes and their families get from the competition and social time with their friends. Not to mention the confidence that comes from competing and having success. A pat on the back after a good effort is priceless. Feel free to contact me for more information on Owatonna Special Olympics at voiceofohs@yahoo.com or by calling (507) 451-2250. We are always accepting new athletes and seeking volunteer coaches. There is also a Young Athletes program in Owatonna. It is a program that gives children ages 2-7 the chance to play and learn basic skills. They meet every Tuesday through April 28 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at McKinley Elementary School in Owatonna. It is open to children with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics is creating more inclusive activities for their athletes.

A special thanks for Saturday's Polar Plunge at Lake Kohlmier should go out to the City of Owatonna and Owatonna Parks and Recreation, both of which donated much time and manpower to getting the event set up.

I didn't jump in Saturday. I'm not as brave as those other 175 people. Hopefully the event comes back to Owatonna next year. Maybe you and I should both take the plunge then.