Nineteen years ago, a collection of people in Alaska cut a hole into the ice of a lake and jumped in to raise money for the Special Olympics. Today, this event is now a successful nationwide fundraiser: the Polar Plunge.
Karen Kraus, Regional Director of Development for Special Olympics Wisconsin, has been volunteering for the Polar Plunge fundraiser for years and, for the past five years, has been working as a part of the organization’s staff.
“We are a year-round sports organization, so, much like high school and college, our athletes are practicing and training on a regular basis with their local coaches,” said Kraus. Over 1,000 local athletes are supported, with funds covering athletic events: facility, staff, food, equipment and other expenses.
The Polar Plunge of Special Olympics Wisconsin has continued to grow, with two of its biggest plunges happening locally in both Menomonie and Eau Claire. Last year, the Menomonie event raised just around $70,000, with over 260 plungers and 40 teams gathered. The largest donation came from the local Kwik Trip franchise.
“Last year was the first year we did it as a whole district,” said Eric Werner, local Kwik Trip leader and team captain. “We raised almost $10,000.”
Teams are required to have a captain, with each member fundraising a minimum of $75. Teams are also encouraged to dress up.
“It’s a wacky event; you’re jumping into an icy lake in February in Wisconsin, so why not wear a crazy costume?” added Kraus.
From February 4 to March 4, 14 plunges are organized in Wisconsin. These plunges raise around 2 million dollars every year in support of the Special Olympics. Whether you’rejumping into a hole in the lake, dumping a bucket of ice over your head or jumping into an ice cold pond by yourself to raise awareness and money, a few shivers are worth supporting a great cause.
The Menomonie Polar Plunge will be taking place on Feb. 11 at Wakanda Park. Visit plungewi.org for more information. The local districts of Kwik Trip would like to thank their loyal customers for their generous donations over the years.