Take a Polar Plunge: Plenty of people jump in lake for a good cause

A group of people brave the cold waters off the Muskego County Park Beach last year during the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

A group of people brave the cold waters off the Muskego County Park Beach last year during the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

Dec. 26, 2012

Muskego - Plunging into icy water of Muskego County Park's swimming hole is a wild enough way to start the new year, but doing it in a wedding gown could take wild to the max.

"It got pretty heavy," said wedding gown-wearer, Matt Anderson. He might still be in the water if firefighters at last year's Polar Plunge hadn't given him a helpful push in the tush up the ladder.

Anderson became a "bride" for a day because his staff at Matty's Bar & Grill, 14460 W. College Ave., New Berlin, decided on a bridal theme for Matty's 2012 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics team.

In previous plunges, Anderson has been playboy Hugh Hefner with his staff coming as bunnies and a beekeeper with his staff of bees.

But he said of going in as a bride: "I don't know how they could top that."

The Muskego Polar Plunge for the Wisconsin Special Olympics is one of many Special Olympics Polar Plunges all over the state. Matty's basically started the Muskego Plunge about nine years ago with just Anderson, his staff and a few brave customers. At that time, they "plunged" into Big Muskego Lake through a hole sawed in the ice. Now, as many as 100 "plungers" are on Matty's team and they raise an average of $20,000 per year for Wisconsin Special Olympics.

Roughly 500 people took the plunge in 2012 at Muskego County Park, going in chest high. And it's a badge of honor to go under.

Breathtaking cold

"It feels like your heart's going to explode," said Joe Czaplewski of Muskego, who has plunged about nine times on Matty's team. The water is so cold, it takes your breath away for a few seconds, he explained.

He didn't really notice the cold kicking in until he was running to the hot tub afterward provided for the plungers, he said. A few minutes in the tub and then getting into warm clothes in the heated changing tent and he was toasty warm again.

But it can be rough out there, as New Berlin's PJ Schneider knows. He actually came up from his cannonball dive and knocked his head on a hard and pointy chunk of floating ice.

"My head was throbbing for a good hour afterward," he said. You could get the feel of the Polar Plunge by putting five ice bags into the bathtub and pouring water in, he said.

But Schneider said he wouldn't miss the Polar Plunge.

"It's a great cause, great people and everybody is out there to support you," he said. "It warms your heart to go out of your way and do something like that."

He was worried the first time he did it because he has 22 metal screws and two plates in a leg he badly injured some time ago. It almost locks up when he's snowblowing and he worried what the frigid water would do, he said. But his leg wasn't bothered at all and he's looking forward to his fifth plunge in 2013.

Schneider's not sure if he'll be in costume this year, but his appearance as a member of Kiss made last year the best one so far, he said.

Everybody wanted their pictures taken with him in his wildly painted face with the whole Kiss wardrobe.

"Everywhere I went, there were photo ops like you wouldn't believe," he said.

Advice for first-timers

The veteran Polar Plungers had some advice for first-timers:

cocktails before and after

cover up for that first time, maybe with a long-sleeved shirt or sweat shirt and long pants to blunt the shock of the cold water

wear shoes

watch out for that floating ice

The 2013 Muskego Polar Plunge is Feb. 10. But plungers will be busy way before that getting as many Wisconsin Special Olympics donations as they can from family, friends and co-workers. The minimum is $75.

They can sign up online or at the event. Although it's more convenient to sign up beforehand, most people just come there to sign up, Anderson said.

The day of the plunge, Matty's has a complimentary breakfast for Matty's Team plungers. Then they and families and friends get on Matty's bus to get to Muskego County Park.

More information is available at the Wisconsin Special Olympics website, specialolympicswisconsin.org.


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