Week 5 – Polar Plunge

One of my earliest best friends in life was Richard Cypher (this is a fictional name I am using to hide the true identity of my friend because I am not sure if he wants me to talk about him on an online website).  For the first many, many years of my life, he was like a brother to me.  I spent more days and weeks than I could ever remember over at his house, playing night games with Richard, his brothers and sisters, and the other neighborhood kids.  Over time, I grew apart from him (as we all have from many childhood friends).  But the few times I have seen him since school, he still always manages to put a smile on my face and make me wish that I had kept in better contact with him throughout these past years.

Richard has Down Syndrome.  Growing up as a kid, I didn’t know what that meant.  All I knew was that Richard was one of my best friends.  He was one of the guys.  As I grew older and started to experience the world more and as I understood people with special needs more, I have to admit that I started to notice his disability.  And in middle school, when we cognitively started to have larger gaps between us, I did notice as well.  But I also didn’t care.  He was my friend and that is how I treated him.  I am so so so glad that I grew up with him in my life because he helped me realize that yes, people are different.  We learn differently, we all have different abilities and skills, different capacities to love and touch others.  But the biggest thing I learned from Richard isn’t that we are different.  I learned that just because you are different doesn’t mean you are less than others.  Different isn’t bad at all.  In fact, it is our differences that make the world go round, that make life unique and enjoyable.

I have Richard to thank for my current job.  I currently am a preschool teacher at a school where around 45% or so of the children have special needs of various kinds.  The love that Richard taught me to have for all individuals has allowed me to truly thrive and just down right love this job.

Needless to say, the special needs community means a lot to me.  So when I found out that I could do something insane and crazy, and at the same time raise money for the Minnesota Special Olympics, I jumped (literally) at the chance.  How did I do such a thing?  I did a Polar Bear Plunge.

For the past month I have been raising money and awareness for the Minnesota Special Olympics.  This culminated with me participating in a Polar Bear Plunge at White Bear Lake on Saturday, January 30th.  I had no idea this event was so popular.  At this one jump there were around 800 participants.  And in order to jump, each person needs to raise a minimum of $75.  So that is a MINIMUM of $60,000 from this one event.  And the Minnesota Special Olympics has thirteen jumps organized this Winter.  With the kind of dedication and craziness that we Minnesotans have for all things Winter, I can’t even conceive how much money these events will raise for such a wonderful organization.

I dedicated my jump to Richard.  Thank you, Richard, for helping me become the person that I am.

I also want to thank my brother, father, one of my other best friends, and one of my cousins for coming to the event with me and supporting me there.

Here are some pictures of me at the plunge.  Sadly, a mid-air picture of me wasn’t taken by my father or friend.  But there was a professional photographer there.  The pictures he took will be uploaded onto his website in the coming weeks.  And if he got a great picture of me, I will surely post it here for all to see.  Until then, enjoy these wonderful pictures.