Sometimes doing things to make yourself happy is good. Sometimes doing something to see someone else smile is better. When you can combine the two it is one of the greatest feelings you can possibly have.
In January I made a vow to myself that I was going to start living a better life. It’s not that I have been living life in a horrible way, but I do believe we can all get better with certain things. One of the things I wanted to do was do something for a good cause. I have always thought it would be fun to try a polar plunge. I came across one less than two hours away and began to ponder whether or not to do it. The plunge was a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Nebraska.
As I sat in church on January 8 I heard the pastor, Seth Leypoldt, say some words that has changed the way I look at things. His message, “That constant urge you have to do something is God telling you to move forward with it.”
That afternoon I created my account through Firstgiving and began my money raising quest. I set a goal of $250, not sure how the response would be. With the help of 16 other people I was able to surpass that goal and hit $305. It isn’t a giant contribution, but it definitely helped. After the plunge it was announced that 55 total plungers went into the below freezing water and combined we raised $10,231.
I pulled into the plunging site at 10:30 in the morning, about 30 minutes before the start of the plunge. I had a Coaches Show prior to that in Chadron so it was a race to get to the river in time. After finding a place to park I went to the registration table to let them know I was there. Then I went back to the vehicle to change into my dri-fit long sleeve. When I left Chadron that morning it was about 25 degrees with a 30 mph wind. Scottsbluff was a little bit warmer by the time 11:00 a.m. rolled around.
I took my bag into the changing tent so it was there when got out of the water. Just before the start of the plunge they announced the temperature was 39 degrees. The wind was blowing so it felt pretty chilly. With my shorts and long-sleeve on I made my way out near the river. As I was having a gentleman take my picture I noticed Pastor Seth nearby. I had told him about the plunge after his message on that January Sunday. It was really cool to see him there.
There were many groups registered for the plunge. In fact, only myself and one other person were plunging as individuals. They let all of the teams go together and Amanda – the other plunger without a team – and I did it solo.
As it came close to my turn I made my way to the riverbank. Amanda went just before me and as she returned to the edge I reached down with my right hand to help her out of the water. We individual plungers have to stick together. Then it was my turn.
The idea was we had to walk out into a river about half way, touch a duck decoy and return to shore. The water was only just above waist high. I stepped down into the water and instantly felt my veins in my legs turn into an icy stream. As I took off to the middle of the river and got deeper into the river I began to realize just how cold the water really was. The current was strong and the biggest challenge for most was staying on their feet. With a slick river bottom and a strong current it made it very difficult to walk through the water. Fortunately I was not one that ended up completely under water. I was able to keep my balance and get to the duck. As I touched the duck some of the onlookers let out a cheer. I turned around and walked through the water back to the edge. By this time my body had gotten used to the cold sensation. After being helped up onto the bank I walked up the small hill. Seth caught me and said he was taking off. He, along with many others, was dressed in a winter coat like we weren’t supposed to be swimming outdoors in February. I thanked him for coming out to support and then made my way to the hot tubs that were waiting. I sat in one for about three minutes to warm up and then climbed out to change.
The Army National Guard has tents set up with heaters inside so we had warm place to go after walking through the icy waters. After changing into warm, dry clothes I made my way to the YMCA Camp for the reception.
They organized an after-party for the plungers and supporters. They had soup and sloppy joe’s along with way too man dessert choices. The meal was provided by Special Olympics athletes in the area and their families. One of the girls recommended I take the Chicken Noodle since she made it and I must say it was a great choice.
After everyone ate they recognized the people who put on the event and the athletes who helped with the meal. The athletes were asked to go to the front of the room so we knew what we were doing the cause for. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw the look on their faces. I knew deep inside I was a part of something special.
Different awards were handed out. They ranged from oldest to youngest plunger, most money earned by male and female, most earned by a team, most outstanding costume, etc. The most outstanding costume was a guy dressed like Alan from The Hangover, equipped with a baby and all. Of course, it was not a real baby and it’s a good thing because the fake baby fell in the water and ended up hung on the pole, by it’s britches, that had the duck staked to the river bottom.
The story of the youngest plunger is worth sharing. I didn’t get her age, but she had to be around 11 years old or so. She wanted to be a part of the plunge, but her mother had told her no. I don’t think her mother thought it was a good idea to have someone that young in the frigid water. Well, she showed her mom. As her mother went into the bathroom one day she found her daughter sitting in a bathtub of freezing water, as proof that she could take it. She ended up doing the plunge.
Doing a Polar Plunge is a “bucket list” thing to do. Some people say they couldn’t do it, but I encourage you and challenge you to give it a shot. Once you get out of the water and realize what you have been a part of you will feel incredibly good about your efforts.
When I began my fundraising efforts I was asked a question, “So you are going to raise money to torture yourself?”
To answer that….Yes, I will raise money and “torture” myself if it is going to a good cause like the Special Olympics of Nebraska.
Oh and P.S. Seth did take video of my walk out into the water. It can be viewed by clicking here.