La Crosse Polar Plunge celebrates its 20th year

People from across the coulee region are embracing the cold water in support of Special Olympics.

The La Crosse Polar Plunge is celebrating its 20th year in our community.

“It’s close to skydiving and I have done both,” said Keith Torgerud, a longtime Polar Plunge participant.

Patrick Scheller, Keith Torgerud, and Edward Gray have been taking to the bitter cold waters for all 20 years.

You might as well call them the three musketeers of the La Crosse Polar Plunge.

“You do get this weird endorphin high out of it,” Scheller said.

Scheller said the event is something people enjoy doing every year.

“It’s just something that everyone who does it once will do it again,” Scheller said. “That’s what I tell people. If you can get them to do it once they will do it for the rest of their lives.”

La Crosse superintendent of recreation Kerry Gloede said it’s something everyone should try.

“It’s breathtaking; it literally takes your breath away,” Gloede said.

Gloede said she has helped put on this event since the beginning and says the La Crosse area has continued to grow in support.

“I feel very blessed that the community for 20 years has supported this event and the Special Olympics athletes in our area,” Gloede said.

Whether you want to believe it or not, participants said the water isn’t so bad.

“It’s pins and needles for a little bit,” Torgerud said.

“It’s kind of like, can you really tell if it’s hot or cold? You can’t really tell the difference,” Scheller said.

Gloede said it’s the suspense that kills.

“The anticipation is worse than actually plunging, and afterwards everyone says it’s not that bad,” Gloede said.

Organizers and volunteers help put on the event every year to make the day enjoyable and safe for everyone.

Special Olympics athletes were the stars who helped kick off the show.

“They are helping in the registration tent, they are helping at volunteer check-in, so the athletes are a big part of this event as well,” Gloede said.

It’s a date community members won’t miss.

“It’s something I look forward to every year, it’s just one of the highlights,” Scheller said.

“Just supporting such a great group and a great cause is all of it,” Torgerud said.

They are experiencing a little freezing for one common reason.

“It’s such an important event not only to raise money but to create awareness for Special Olympics and just to have all these people here supporting us is really amazing,” Gloede said.

Organizers said they want to hit last year’s milestone of more than $142,000 dollars to go toward year-round programs for Special Olympics.