Dip raises $40,000
WORTHINGTON -- Six days ago, Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight executive committee president Terrie Gulden said the group was $50,000 away from financing the third flight of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.
And then came Saturday.
With the air temperature at 10 degrees, 61 people stepped up to a 10- by 10-foot hole in the ice and took the Deep Freeze Dip in Lake Okabena. Their pledges, donations and sponsorships added up to more than $40,000 -- and more money continues to pour in.
US104 general manager Chad Cummings, who organized this second annual Deep Freeze Dip, said he was amazed by the amount of money raised to help fund the Honor Flight. Dippers collected nearly as much as last year's tally of $45,000 -- money that was used to help fund the inaugural Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota last April 30-May 1. The second flight was Oct. 1-2.
The dippers on Saturday said they volunteered to make just a small sacrifice -- 10 seconds of pain as a few of them said -- to raise money and honor the men and women who made much greater sacrifices to serve our country in World War II
"Being part of the National Guard, it really means a lot to me that people are supporting the Honor Flight like this," said Kent Knutson of Worthington. "I just want to thank the community for a good showing today -- we raised a lot of money for the Honor Flight and it's a great thing."
While Knutson donned swim trunks to take his dip, several others were creative in their costuming.
Fourth grade teacher Cory Van Briesen donned a woman's swim suit complete with a hot pink ruffle at the waist, along with swim cap, goggles, red braids and a beauty contest sash. To add to the fun, he did a couple of exercises before taking the plunge.
Van Briesen and his fellow teachers at Adrian Elementary raised more than $3,000 by seeking community donations and putting collection cans in the classrooms at school last week.
Valerie Muecke of Slayton and Ashley Wheeler of Worthington were two of the 10 JBS employees to take the chilly dip for charity. Both women work in the health services area at JBS.
"We did a little research, so we're wearing the least amount of clothes as we're comfortable with," Muecke said. One of the three was brave enough to wear a bikini.
It wasn't a bikini, but a pig snout made from a Styrofoam cup that was part of Wheeler's attire.
"I'm jumping because it's a good cause and will make dreams come true for people who may not have been able to take the Honor Flight," she said.
Worthington's Jessica Anderson jumped in the frigid waters with a colorful jester's hat to pay tribute to her grandfather, father, father-in-law, brother and husband -- all of whom served in the military.
Martin Lopez made the leap with a large sombrero, while Minnesota West Community & Technical College head football coach Jeff Linder took the plunge in full football gear.
"(The veterans have) done a good job for us and if it's a little second of pain, this is what I'm going to do for them," said Linder, who raised $1,200 in three days for Honor Flight.
Adrian High School seniors and twin brothers Austin and Justin Wolf collected more than $2,000 toward Honor Flight by going to businesses throughout their community and collecting donations from friends and family.
"We figured that we could suffer for 10 seconds for everything (the veterans) have done," said Austin.
"And I couldn't let him do it by himself," added Justin with a laugh.
For most of the dippers on Saturday, jumping into a lake in the middle of January was a first time -- and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience, but not for John Standafer.
"This is my fourth time jumping in the water and every time you walk up to it thinking it's not going to be that bad and every time it's worse," Standafer said after changing into his warm clothing. "The fact that it's like 7 degrees out -- I don't think that helped any."
As a first-time dipper, Worthington's Jason Turner found it challenging to express his reaction after hitting the water. He joked that it probably wasn't anything that could appear in print, and then said it was exhilarating -- even exciting.
"The toughest part for me was trying to climb the ladder after I hit the water," he said. "My old, 41-year-old joints didn't work real good trying to climb the ladder on the way out."
Still, Turner was glad he took the dip.
"I heard what a great experience it was for the vets who have gone on the Honor flight," he said. "What more of a worthwhile thing than to try to send a few more on it."
The Deep Freeze Dip was one of several events on Saturday as part of Worthington's Winterfest celebration. The day began with more than 130 people taking part in the Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club ice fishing contest on Lake Okabena and, prior to the dip, Worthington High School sophomore Whitney Coriolan was crowned 2011 Snow Queen. Coriolan is the daughter of Ernst and Carol Coriolan, Worthington.