UW-Whitewater students “take the plunge” into freezing water

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Freezing temperatures, ice cold water and hundreds of people willing to brave them both gathered for the annual Polar Plunge event hosted by Special Olympics Wisconsin last weekend.

The event took place on Feb. 16 in Cravath Lakefront Park in order to help raise funds for the Special Olympics. Participants “take the plunge” into ice cold water after raising funds to support their individual plunge teams.

Since its inception in 1999, the Polar Plunge has raised more than $14 million for Special Olympics. This year, Whitewater has raised more than $22,000 in online pledges and donations alone.

This event attracts many UW-Whitewater students, many of whom participate with their student organizations. This year, the American Marketing Association was a participating group.

Three students from the group, junior Tracy O’Mara, freshman Steven Hulen and senior Brad Becker, had their first experience this year with the Polar Plunge.

For these three, it took a lot of mental preparation, and in Hulen’s case, a lot of chili, to get ready to  jump into freezing water in mid-February in Wisconsin.

“I guess I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years, and the opportunity came up,” O’Mara said. “I support the Special Olympics, and I do a lot of work with handicapped individuals on campus and outside of campus, so it’s just a good opportunity to give back to the community.”

In addition to supporting the cause, the others said they felt motivated by gaining the experience and simply to satisfy curiosity.

“I just feel like it’s one of those things you gotta do at least once,” Becker said. “It was fun, and definitely, it was cold, but it was definitely worth the experience.”

O’Mara, Hulen and Becker had multiple ways of fundraising for the event ahead of time as well. Using the internet and social media, going door-to-door and giving the easily recognizable polar bear icons to different businesses around town were just a few primary methods they used to get donations.

But of course, the spotlight of the experience was actually “taking the plunge.”

For Hulen, the best part of the experience was the anticipation before the plunge. He said waiting until it was their turn built the adrenaline and made it more exciting.

On the other hand, O’Mara said waiting was the worst part, and while she thought the moment they hit the water was the best part, Hulen said it was the worst.

Hulen

“Literally, the air just got taken right out of you,” Hulen said.

Becker said the best part was not before or during the plunge, but after. He believed that standing in the cold winds after coming out of the freezing water was the true test of endurance.

“I think it really redefines what your perspective is of cold,” Becker said. O’Mara and Hulen strongly agreed.

All three came to the conclusion the Polar Plunge was an amazing experience they think other students should go through. Not only does it support a good cause, it is also something to mark off of the bucket list.

Though the three students are unsure if they will participate next year, they said they are all glad they were a part of it this year, and they hope other students will also embrace the opportunity.