Freezin’ for good reason: Columbus students are a top team in Madison Polar Plunge

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Participants braved the elements as they plunged for a good cause.

A team from Columbus High School plunges into icy waters.

Special Olympics Wisconsin hosted its 15th Polar Plunge in Madison Saturday, expecting to raise around $200,000 to send its athletes to sporting events throughout the year. In Special Olympics terminology, an athlete is anyone more than 8 years old with an intellectual disability.

Kathleen Roach, president of the charity, said, “We have so many people here locally that believe in Special Olympics Wisconsin, and they’re willing to come out and take the plunge on behalf of the athletes.”

More than 40 students and teachers from Columbus High School belonged to the top fundraising team in the state—two years in a row. At the time of the plunge, they raised more than $28,000.

Olivia Voelker, a junior at the school, explained how she raised money for three months: “I spent two hours one night going door to door in my neighborhood with another friend.”

Lauren Henry said, “We are doing this for no reason for us. It's all for Special Olympics. It’s awesome.”

Voelker and Henry are a part of the club Project UNIFY at their school, which fosters a community for those with intellectual disabilities.

Advisor to the club Jahlieh Henderson said the students’ fundraising success is due to their tenacity and dedication. “They [the kids] truly believe in the mission and believe in creating opportunity for people with disabilities,” she said.

Voelker described the moment she jumped into icy waters: “Your entire body goes numb. It's all just a thought process of ‘get into the hot tub right away.’”

Special Olympics Wisconsin hosts 13 plunges throughout the state. The next events are on February 22 in Oconomowoc and Wausau.