Freezing for a cause

Students and staff take on the Special Olympics Polar Plunge


Millard West students and staff take on the Special Olympics POlar PLunge at Lake Zorinsky.

Brooke Sliva, Social Media Manager

The Special Olympics held a Polar Plunge on Saturday, Feb. 26 at Lake Zorinsky. Many Millard West students, as well as other staff members and athletes participated in the plunge. 

The Polar Plunge, an annual event that challenges participants to show support for Special Olympics Nebraska by plunging into a lake in the middle of the winter. The ones brave enough to run into the icy waters raise money by collecting pledges from family, friends and co-workers. Plungers are encouraged to form teams. Millard West sent out an invite to all sports teams and clubs. The girls soccer team, boys basketball team, a member from girls golf, a member from girls tennis and one of our very own ACP students took on the challenge.

“Millard West girls soccer has many people who are already involved in Unified Sports and West Friends, and we have participated in the unified kickball game event as well,” sophomore Ella Konwinski said. “The plunge was, as expected, very cold, but it was actually a very fun experience, especially just getting to do it with all my best friends. Even though it was a dreadful 30 seconds of my life, I’m so proud of myself and the rest of the team for participating in the plunge.”

Teams were encouraged to dress up in costumes and share their experience by using the hashtag #BeBoldGetCold. Millard West went with a tropical theme this year, with students wearing shark onesies, tropical shirts and swimsuits.

This is Millard West’s fourth year participating in the Polar Plunge through Special Olympics.                    Each person wanting to plunge had to raise at least $50 in support of the Special Olympics program, and all the money raised this year goes back to the Unified Sports and Activities programs at Millard West. The athletics and activities that signed up get 25% of the money raised donated back to their sport or activity.

“The previous three years have been staff that have plunged, but this year we wanted to take a different approach,” special education teacher Danielle Anderson said. “We wanted it more student based, so we set up incentives for sports and activities to sign up.”

Millard West was able to raise $6,426, achieving well over their goal of $5000. Prizes are awarded to teams for creativity and fundraising, and the more money raised, the better the prize. If they raised $75 they got a long sleeved T-shirt, $250 received a Hooded sweatshirt, $500 raised they got a Polar Plunge blanket. If they raised $1,000 they got a Polar Plunge 24-Can Cooler, and $3,000 raised they received a Polar Plunge jacket. 

There were also other awards given out during the day to each individual team.The boys basketball team won a pizza party for having the most plungers. The girls soccer team won donuts for the best school spirit and crazy costumes. The student who raised the most money raised throughout the day got the Most Valuable Plunger award, which Junior Nick Wright won. .

“The Polar Plunge is a huge event for the Special Olympics and for Millard West Unified Sports and Activities,” Millard Education Academy Teacher Ali Bragg said. “I thought the day went really well. I was very excited and grateful to see students taking part. I hope we can include even more Millard West sports and clubs next year.”

At the end of the long and cold day, the goal was to raise $100,000 from all the participants for special olympics and the plungers went above and beyond and raised $125,162. The Special Olympics puts on many events throughout the year to get people together and raise money that will go back to benefit all Unified activities.