Chilsons’ Bucket List—Polar Plunge

Team Shock & Thaw The team from Cedar Branch DAC raised nearly $600 for Special Olympics. From left: Matt Oelkers, Stephanie Besendorf, Jyl Schlafge and Chris and Sandra Chilson.

by Marcie Klomp

Cold feet. Cold hands. Cold bums. Cold hmm hmms. And that was before jumping into freezing water with wind chills below zero.

The Shock & Thaw team from Cedar Branch DAC (Developmental Achievement Center) at Adams were “Freezin’ for a Reason” on Saturday, Feb. 11 as five representatives participated in the 11th Annual Rochester Polar Bear Plunge.

Members of the team included Sandra Chilson, program manager QMRP and husband Chris, both of Lime Springs, co-worker Stephanie Besendorf of Brownsdale and two of her friends, Jyl Schlafge and Matt Oelkers, both of Austin.

It was actually Besendorf’s idea to get a team together for the Special Olympics fund-raiser and Sandra was on board right away. It didn’t take much to convince hubby to join. “It is a good opportunity to raise money and awareness for a special cause,” Sandra said.

“It is the first time the DAC has participated as far as current staff is aware,” she continued. Before the jump she said, “I’m excited and I can cross it off my bucket list—I jumped into a lake in Minnesota in February. I don’t know if I’m going to do it again.”

Chris, who is a retired Navy man, joked, “I’m mentally preparing by remembering how hot it was in the Persian Gulf. All those years I was wishing I could jump in a lake in the ice.”

A week before, she commented, “I’m glad it’s going to be in the 30s and not the minuses.”

Unfortunately, the weather took its own “plunge” over the next week and wind chill was below zero the day of the event!

Teams could warm up in the dressing rooms and staging area, but still had to walk between the areas in frigid temps.

Besendorf and Schlafge made special “Shock & Thaw” tye-dyed T-shirts for the occasion. They weren’t the only ones dressed up. Many teams went with a theme. Some standouts included a fire department dressed in full-body long johns; Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood; Where’s Waldo?; mesh bath sponges; and super heroes.

As they walked down the “gang plank” they saw the outline of a former participant, but they kept going! It didn’t take them long to jump in the water, guided by three helpers in wet suits, and walk out and leap into one of three hot tubs. It was a quick soak because more jumpers were on their way in to warm up.

All in all, it was a great experience and the five had fun. Besendorf said, “It was coooold! I was freaking out all morning. Then when we pulled up, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I’ll probably do it next year.”

Schlafge agreed, “It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it next year.”

Chris commented “I thought the air temp wasn’t as bad as it was, and the water temp was worse. I’ll do it again next year.”

Sandra noted, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Although I was the first one in and the last one out!”

The group has a whole year for the goose bumps to go away and prepare for the next jump. They already have friends asking to join the team for next year.


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