By Travis Mounts
The Wichita area’s annual Polar Plunge, a fundraiser for Special Olympics, was held on Saturday, Feb. 3, in and around Riggs Park. Events included a 5-kilometer race as well as the titular plunge into a chilly Riggs Park pond.
Logan Combs, student body president at Campus High School, was there with his team. Illness kept him from taking the plunge this year, but he did jump in the water last year.
“It was much colder than this year, and a lot windier,” he said. “It’s really shocking (when you jump in) and you can’t move for a second. You get warmed up right away.”
Mardy Moree, a counselor at Campus High School, has taken part in the Polar Plunge since the Campus Colts team was founded in 2010. Saturday was her eighth plunge; she’s missed only one, due to illness.
“I always try to bring somebody new each year. I tell them it’s not too bad. I’m trying to pump myself up as well. It takes a little bit of crazy, but it’s for a good cause,” she said.
Moree’s 12-year-old daughter, Aleah, now joins her. Aleah made her second plunge this year.
“It’s fun to do together,” Moree said. “It’s a great cause and great for the community. I’ve issued a challenge to superintendent (Dr. John) Burke to join us next year.”
The Colts won the award for most team members. There were six participants this year. They raised around $1,500.
Another of those team members was Avary Finch, a Campus High grad who flew in from college in Denver just for Saturday’s events. Finch doesn’t have a personal connection to Special Olympics, but became involved while in high school.
“I really love the organization and what they do. It’s something that’s so simple to do, just jumping in cold water,” she said.
Her first year was when she was student body president.
“I’ve been doing it ever since. This is my third year,” Finch said.
Beth Carl, a special education teacher with the Haysville School District, brought a new team this year, consisting of family members from the Conway Springs area, where Carl lives. She brought her sister, brother and two cousins.
Carl has became involved in Special Olympics while still in high school. She’s now in her 11th year volunteering, and is on the game management team. She’s helped set up for the Polar Plunge in previous years, but this was her first plunge.
“Cold,” she said, when asked to describe it. “An amazing experience, but cold.”
The cold feeling is soon replaced by something warmer.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling, but a good feeling knowing we helped give students an opportunity they wouldn’t have without Special Olympics,” Carl said.
Carl knew as a seventh-grader that she wanted to be a special education teacher. She soon learned about Special Olympics. She got involved with a group at her church that used to volunteer at Special Olympics basketball.
Carl raised the most money individually, and her team, the Ninja Turtles, was the top fundraiser with $2,465. The women dressed as the turtles, and Carl’s brother was the character Shredder.