Many Polar Plunge participants include jumping in icy river as part of their "bucket list."

Since the movie by the same name was released in 2007, the term “bucket list” has gained a strong foothold in society’s every day vocabulary. For the uninformed, a “bucket list” consists of things a person wants to do before “kicking the bucket.”
For a number of people, participating in the annual Polar Plunge on the Hannibal riverfront qualifies as a personal achievement they want to be able to say they’ve accomplished. Among that group is Mary Lynne Richards, assistant supervisor for promotion and planning with the Hannibal Parks & Recreation Department. She took the plunge two years ago when the Parks Department hosted its first frigid benefit in behalf of Special Olympics.
“It was on my bucket list and I’ve already did it,” she said. “That’s what I keep telling people, ‘Check that off your bucket list.’ They say, ‘Oh no, that’s not on my bucket list.’”
It was with her personal list of things she wants to do in life in mind that Brittni Shaw of Hannibal agreed to splash into the frigid Mississippi River this Saturday with friends Emele Richards and Jen Link.
“It’s one of the things to check off my bucket list,” said Shaw, a sophomore studying business at Moberly Area Community College.
According to Richards, there is a turnover in the list of people plunging each year.
“There are a lot of people who say, ‘Once I did it, I did it. I don’t need to do it again,’” she said.
Don’t count Shaw in that group.
“I plan to be coming back and doing it next year. Even though I haven’t done it yet, the cause is too great not to come back,” said Shaw, who plans to be enrolled at Mizzou at this time next year.

No cold feet

As Saturday has approached, Shaw has not gotten … cold feet.
“I’m excited,” said the 2010 graduate of Hannibal High School. “I don’t have any second thoughts. I just think about what the money is going to and the cause - Special Olympics. That makes me happy. It’s worth doing.”
Because neither Shaw or her friends have participated in the event before, Shaw has sought insight from previous plungers.
“I’ve heard you’re supposed to go completely under or it’s not worthwhile, so I’m going to put my head completely under,” she said.
Richards knows what awaits Shaw when she meets the river water.
“It is freezing cold, but just for a second. It’s also invigorating,” she said.
Shaw also has a game plan for when she exits the water.
“As soon as you get out of the water make sure you have towels waiting and put on as much warm clothing as you can so you don’t get sick, or catch pneumonia,” she said.
Saturday could mark the coldest plunge yet. Last year the temperature hovered around 30 when the event started. Two years ago it was in the low 50s. This year’s forecasted high is 27 degrees, which means at 11 a.m. when the first participant hits the water the air temperature will be, at best, in the low 20s.
“Yes, it will be cold,” said Andy Dorian, director of the Parks Department. “And it just seems like it’s a little bit colder out on the riverfront than anywhere else. We’ll be bundled up.”
Despite the forecast, if past years are any barometer, Dorian expects a large turnout of spectators Saturday.
“I have been shocked (by past crowds). If anyone hasn’t been down there, it’s crazy,” he said. “There are people who go on the docks, the ramp and all down the (Nipper) park. It’s just an amazing turnout.”
According to Dorian, the Polar Plunge is something the Parks Department looks forward to helping stage.
“I don’t think anybody enjoys getting out in the freezing cold, but it’s something we only do one time a year and it’s raising money for a really good cause. And the public, really, really enjoys it. It’s a great event,” he said.