“Be Bold, Get Cold”

Staff takes a bone-chilling jump into Cunningham Lake


Photo Courtesy of Sarah Wiese-Johnson

Millard West faculty team gets ready to take the plunge into Lake Cunningham

Holly Rooney, Staff Writer

Not many people would voluntarily jump into a lake during frigid Feb 11th temperatures, let alone pay for it. However, for some faculty at Millard West, this was an opportunity to help. Many Alternate Curriculum Program teachers, administration and other staff chose to sign up to take the annual Polar Plunge.

Plungers took pledges from their family and friends to jump into the freezing temperatures of Lake Cunningham. There’s a minimum of a $50 donation to participate and jumpers can choose to go individually or as a team.

With the temperature only reaching 6 degrees at 11 a.m. that Saturday, there had to be a hole cut in the ice covering Lake Cunningham. Most plungers waded in about chest deep while few committed to immersing themselves completely under the water.

“I only got about chest high,” library para David Rochford said. “It wasn’t as cold as you think it would be just because you couldn’t really feel anything. After we plunged we ran into heated tents so we could change into different clothes.”

Groups are encouraged to have fun and dress up in costumes or any theme of their choice. The staff decided to jump as a team dressed in colorful, neon full-body spandex suits underneath their Wildcat basketball jerseys topped with Millard West stocking hats and some crazy socks.

People are enticed to donate money with incentive prizes ranging from a long sleeve T-shirt for $75, or an all-terrain portable wagon for $3,000. Together the staff team raised $6,425 which will fund Millard West programs like the Unified sports teams, the West Friends club and the Special Olympics in Nebraska.

The Special Olympics Nebraska’s mission is to provide children and adults with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in olympic-type sports and athletic competitions, giving them a chance to experience joy through fitness, and a platform to demonstrate courage.

We feel like the students in our clubs and programs deserve to have the same amount of opportunities, so all of the money raised goes towards the kids and the programs,” ACP teacher Bret Siepker said. “By becoming a self-sustaining program, we are able to apply to become a Championship Banner School through Special Olympics, which is their highest honor.”

This fundraising opportunity hit home for business teacher Kendra Thunker and her husband, who have a 4-month-old son diagnosed with Trisomy 21 which is more commonly referred to as down syndrome.

“I decided to participate in the Polar Plunge in support of him and all of the awesome Special Olympics athletes,” Thunker said. “It’s neat to see how many people came out to support a great cause. I hope that someday my son has the opportunity to participate in these type of programs.”

After their dip in the lake, the participants were rewarded with a complimentary lunch at the Saints Pub and Patio and received their incentive prizes if they qualified. The Omaha Polar Plunge raised $101,006 from donators.

With such a beneficial goal in mind, quickly dipping oneself into some cold water seems like something so minuscule for a reward that pays off so big. A brief second of what can only be described as pain transforms into funding for a memorable and impactful high school experience for intellectually challenged students.

“This is definitely something I want to continue every year,” Siepker said. “The water was so cold it actually felt like it was burning my skin. It was painful, but it was over very quick”

Though this quick rush of adrenaline was a first time for the eight brave jumpers on the Millard West team, many have decided to come back next year and are dedicated to increasing their team size to 20 people looking to plunge for a cause.