Taking the plunge for Special Olympics

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, February 11, 2017

WHITEWATER—At some point, cold is relative.

That point was not Saturday, when the Special Olympics Polar Plunge was taking place in Cravath Park.

The event involves raising money for the privilege of flinging yourself into a makeshift pool of icy water, so temperatures matter.

“The water didn't ice over during the night,” said Brittany Neukirchen, regional director of development for the Special Olympics.

For the Polar Plunge, that's rather pleasant.

The temperatures reached a low of about 32 degrees overnight, according to the National Weather Service. By 11:45 a.m., it was a balmy 45 degrees.

A team from the Rock County Sheriff's Office and jail was making the jump. It's something the group has been doing for the past few years.

“It wasn't too bad,” said Sgt. Todd Egger. “At least not compared to last year.”

Last year, the temperature was near zero degrees ... and not on the nice side of zero, either.

Egger's team was joined Saturday by teams from other law enforcement agencies, community groups and schools.

Milton FFA, Milton High School and West Elementary School all sent teams. A team from Marshall Middle School in Janesville also was present.

Milton Middle School's Project Unify sent 16 kids and a staff member to make the leap.

Jenna Eden, who jumped into the pool wearing what looked like a Chewbacca suit from "Star Wars," explained Project Unify was a group committed to complete inclusiveness and to breaking down barriers between students with and without disabilities.

It was difficult to interview any of the students after their jumps, as they ran shrieking to the changing tent.

Other teams involved Saturday included members of the Renegade 4-H Club,who were first-timers at the event. The Edgerton group raised more than $1,100 for the event.

Club members said they didn't know anyone involved with Special Olympics, but they thought the event sounded like fun.

“What's better than jumping into freezing cold water?” said Madisen Zych.

Most people said they were jumping for the fun of it.

“It is such a great cause,” said Egger.

The Polar Plunge is the first of four Special Olympic events members of law enforcement are involved in, Egger said. The others are the Law Enforcement Torch Run; Cop on a Roof, which involves police officers sitting on the roof of Dunkin' Dounts in Janesville, and Tip a Cop, an event in which officers serve meals at Texas Roadhouse in Janesville.

Last year, the event in Whitewater raised about $70,000. Statewide, $2 million was raised.

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