Lawrence High students, staff gear up for icy-cold swim in support of Special Olympics

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Brrrr! The weather forecast calls for a low temperature near 20° the night before Lawrence’s annual polar plunge. Lawrence High School teacher Susie Mička just hopes organizers won’t need an ice axe to clear the frigid water for Sunday’s event.

“In years past, they’ve had to chop the ice to break the surface,” Mička said. “They deemed it too unsafe. They were afraid that we would hit the ice and get hurt.”

Despite the cold and potential ice, access to HERE Apartments’ swimming pool for the fundraiser is much preferred over jumping in a lake, Mička said.

William Wise, sophomore at LHS, said he was ready to participate in the event for the first time. The cold won’t bother him.

“It’s gonna be exciting,” William said.

Mička expects about 40 participants — mostly LHS students and staff members — to take a very chilly dip for the cause Sunday. More than $6,500 had been pledged for 2023’s polar plunge as of Wednesday morning. That figure sent students out to update the posters they’ve made displaying their fundraising results.

Special Olympics Kansas sponsors the annual event and distributes the funds to programs benefitting more than 4,800 Kansas athletes, according to its website. Through Special Olympics’ shared fundraising, the more money raised locally the more money LHS can receive to fund local initiatives, including the programs taught and sponsored by Mička. Those are IPS (interpersonal and communication skills) and Unified Sports.

Daylen Medlen

IPS and Unified Sports give teens of all abilities an opportunity to develop leadership skills together. The peers also make new friends, go on field trips, participate in public relations campaigns promoting inclusivity, and compete in athletic events.

For senior Daylen Medlen, the best part of the inclusivity programs at LHS is wrestling with Coach Brad Stoll, adaptive physical education teacher.

“It’s just great,” Daylen said, referring to IPS and naming off the friends he’s made in Mička’s class.

During an era of budget cuts in Lawrence Public Schools, IPS at LHS has grown. Mička has taught the course for 13 years. Three sections support 68 students this year. That’s an increase of one section, or 24 students, since last year, according to Mička.

Although LHS has already surpassed the fundraising goals set for this year’s polar plunge, there’s still time to donate toward the effort. Click here for more information.

Meanwhile, a side competition has emerged among fundraising groups, Mička said.

“We initiated a new component this year, and that was to have different groups or sports teams compete. So any money earned by any of the players or coaches for that team, we’re gonna pool and then we’re gonna take them donuts. We’re really hoping the track team doesn’t win, because that’s a lot of donuts!” Mička joked.

Registration for the Special Olympics Lawrence Polar Plunge begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 at HERE Apartments, 1111 Indiana St. The fee is $75. A costume contest related to this year’s theme, Rock ‘N’ Plunge, is scheduled for 11:45 a.m., and the plunge follows at noon. Mička welcomed supporters to attend and cheer on participants.

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Tricia Masenthin/Lawrence Times IPS students at Lawrence High School update their fundraising poster for the 2023 Special Olympics Polar Plunge on Feb. 8, 2023.
Tricia Masenthin/Lawrence Times Katie Kuzinski, Lawrence High School sophomore, paints a heart on a poster on Feb. 8, 2023.
Tricia Masenthin/Lawrence Times Adding final touches to fundraising posters are Katie Kuzinski, Ayo Obadare, Valeriano Aguinaga Sagal and Tyson Grammer.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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