Lake Tahoe Polar Plunge for Special Olympics returns this weekend |

Lake Tahoe Polar Plunge for Special Olympics returns this weekend

by Sebastian Foltz
A past Polar Plunge participant makes it out of Lake Tahoe with her spirits intact.
Kelley L Cox-KLC fotosm Courtesy | KLC fotos

For 27-year Special Olympics volunteer Donna Hepp, jumping into frigid Lake Tahoe waters in March not once, but twice, is her idea of a good time — and she’s not alone.

“It’s a fun way to raise money,” she said. “It definitely gets people’s attention.”

Hepp and 329 other participants spent a chilly March 19 on the beach at Zephyr Cove Resort for the Special Olympics South Lake Tahoe Polar Plunge fundraiser.

“The turnout was phenomenal,” Special Olympics Northern California and Nevada COO Ilisa Kessler said. “It’s a party atmosphere. People keep coming back.”

The annual event raised more than $111,000 this year, with donations still being accepted.

“It’s a great display of community coming together,” Kessler noted. “We’ve been growing the fundraising every year.”

A few years ago donations topped out at around $70,000, she said, which shows how much the event has grown since then.

“It’s a unique way to meet people. You make friends from year to year,” Hepp said of her inspiration to participate.

“It’s incredibly near and dear to my heart,” she added, explaining that she’s participated in numerous plunges this winter.

Kessler described the annual fundraiser as Nevada’s largest for the cause. Funds benefit Special Olympics programs in California and Nevada with $0.92 of every dollar going directly to programs and activities.

To learn more about Special Olympics, visit and