Knutson raises close to $3,000 for plunge
Blue Earth’s Haley Knutson has taken the plunge. And no, she is not talking about marriage.
She is talking about Minnesota’s Polar Plunge. This was Haley’s sixth consecutive year in taking the plunge.
So, what is it? Minnesota’s Polar Plunge is a means of raising funds to support Special Olympics Minnesota. According to the Polar Plunge website, all funds raised in the Polar Plunge challenges go towards programming and events for more than 8,000 Special Olympic athletes statewide.
Once a participant raises a minimum of $75, they take a plunge into one of Minnesota’s many frozen lakes. Knutson says it is much more than just jumping into a frozen lake. For her, it is about supporting and being supported by her community.
Knutson, who graduated from Blue Earth Area High School in 2006, was a special education student herself. She says she enjoys fundraising for Special Olympic athletes because she wants to be a professional athlete someday.
Haley’s passion, outside of jumping into lakes, is running.
“I’ve been running for a long time. I really enjoy it and when you run with other people, it is even more fun. You get to help each other and encourage each other, and finish with each other,” says Knutson.
For her first Polar Plunge, Knutson found herself in Rochester getting ready to plunge by herself, when a group of fire fighters from North Mankato approached her.
“They asked me if I was jumping alone and I said yes, then they asked me to jump in with them, and since then, we’ve been jumping all together,” says Knutson. “They even call me their adopted daughter now.”
And why not? Knutson has more than pulled her weight in her six plunges in Minnesota.
She says the plunge, itself is pretty intense, but its afterwards that she likes best.
“You go into this tent and get all toasty and warm. It is like a bunch of kittens snuggling your entire body,” says Knutson.
This year, Knutson raised close to $3,000 from her community, and she could not be any happier with the support she has received these past six years.
“I am very lucky to have such a strong support system,” says Knutson. “I had so much support from my coworkers at United Hospital in Blue Earth as well as many friends and family members that donated to the cause.”
Knutson has plunged in three of Minnesota’s lakes during her Polar Plunges. Her first jump was in Rochester, and the last three or four years she jumped in North Mankato, but this past year, she and her adopted fire department team jumped in St. Peter.
“It is fun, but I get so nervous, so I really like jumping with the guys from the North Mankato Fire Department,” Knutson says. “When you’re up there by yourself, you just think about things too much and I would have probably chickened out, but jumping with friends makes it much easier.”
And it is fire departments and police departments that play a fairly large roll in the Polar Plunge challenge itself.
“Plunges are a part of the year-round fundraising program called the Law Enforcement Torch Run, through which law enforcement personnel from across the state raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Minnesota,” says the Polar Plunge website. In 2012, the men and women in law enforcement across Minnesota raised $2.85 million for Special Olympic athletes.
And if that is not enough of a push to plunge, Knutson says there is more incentive.
“After so much money, you get some cool stuff. I’ve gotten a baseball hat the past few years, and every time my dad takes it and says he gets it. This year, I’m keeping my hat for myself,” she says.
Though it is not the swag that gets Knutson in the cold, the camaraderie at the event and the fundraising for athletes does.
“If I know I’ve helped with the expenses for one special athlete to attend a camp or a workshop, then I’ve done what I have set out to do,” she says.
So it seems no matter how icy the waters are, it is the warm heart of giving that keeps Knutson returning again and again to frigid lakes to take the Polar Plunge.