By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Leap into an ice-cold Minnesota lake in the dead of winter?
“It’s kind of crazy, but it looks like fun,” said 2008 Lester Prairie High School grad Brittany Litzau.
Brittany, her dad, Darian, and brother, Derek, all plan to take the Polar Bear Plunge in St. Cloud Saturday, Feb. 18.
The goal of the “Plunge,” which is presented by Minnesota law enforcement, is to raise funds for Special Olympics.
“Each person has to raise $75,” Brittany said. “I just thought it would be an excellent cause.”
The Litzau family first talked about doing the plunge after watching last year’s event on TV.
“You see it on the news, and half the time, you think the people are nuts,” Darian said. “Well, we thought we’d join that group.”
Sixteen opportunities to be “freezin’ for a reason” take place throughout the state between January and March. At each lake, a hole is cut in an area where “plungers” only need to be waist deep in water. Those who want to go all the way under are advised to bend their knees.
Participants are encouraged to wear costumes, and the Litzaus are looking forward to wearing theirs.
“We have it all planned out, but it’s a big family secret,” Brittany said. “We want it to be a surprise.”
Past Polar Bear Plungers have been decked out as leprechauns, beauty queens, frogs, Elvis, and garden gnomes, to name a few.
“They say you can wear a wetsuit, but you will get booed,” Brittany said. “The point of it is to be cold.”
Brittany said she’s not a fan of cold water, but Darian doesn’t mind it.
“Last summer, I went on a church mission trip to Sawyer, MI, and swam in Lake Superior,” he said, adding that the water was about 45 or 50 degrees F. “It was refreshing on the body.”
For the Plunge, the Litzaus are part of a St. Cloud State University team called BSEC-SUMO, which stands for Business School Executive Council-Society of Unified Management Organization.
“It’s a whole university thing,” Brittany said. “Last year, the University of Minnesota, Duluth challenged us, and we lost by a lot. They challenged us again this year, and we’re actually ahead this time.”
As of Feb. 6, St. Cloud had $6,075 in pledges, while Duluth had $6,000.
Derek and Brittany are both students at St. Cloud State University and members of SUMO.
Brittany, who currently works part time at Worldwide Dispensers in Lester Prairie, will be graduating in May with a degree in business management. Derek, a 2011 Lester Prairie graduate, is studying to become a teacher.
Polar plunge popularity
When the Polar Bear Plunge first began in Minnesota in 1998, it had 65 participants, and raised $20,000.
In 2011, the Plunge had 11,000 participants, raising more than $2.2 million for Special Olympics Minnesota.
“It’s growing a lot,” Brittany said. “It’s been tripling.”
Although each participant only needs to raise $75, the average person raised $192 last year.
St. Cloud’s Plunge starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at the 400 Supper Club.
Other upcoming Plunge locations include:
• Prior Lake Feb. 18
• Duluth Feb. 18
• South Metro Feb. 25
• Alexandria Feb. 26
• Minneapolis March 3
• Brainerd March 3
• Eden Prairie March 10
• Mille Lacs March 10
• Grand Rapids March 17
To learn more, make an online donation, or join a team, go to the Polar Bear Plunge website.
Cash or check donations can also be mailed directly to Darian Litzau, PO Box 591, Lester Prairie, MN 55354.