Frozen for a cause: Deep Freeze Dip raises $35,000 for Project Livesaver

WORTHINGTON -- While most East Coast residents spent Saturday huddled indoors monitoring snowfall totals and blizzard conditions, a healthy percentage of Worthington's population braved Minnesota's elements to celebrate Winterfest.

WORTHINGTON - While most East Coast residents spent Saturday huddled indoors monitoring snowfall totals and blizzard conditions, a healthy percentage of Worthington’s population braved Minnesota’s elements to celebrate Winterfest.

“This gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘chill out,’” remarked one amused bystander as the Radio Works/Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club Deep Freeze Dip got underway at Sunset Park in the mid-afternoon.
But earlier in the day, about 30 resilient runners and walkers took to the streets on Worthington’s west edge to stroll or jog their way through a two-mile course.
With only pairs of eyes showing, and plenty of frosty breath pouring from mouths and noses, the well-wrapped pedestrians completed the distance, claiming long-sleeved blue shirts at the Worthington Area YMCA for their efforts.

“Jenna Bents and I led the pack into the wind,” testified Tina Nickel, a YMCA fitness instructor. “Some of the ladies from Texas toughed it out, too.”
Ah, yes, the Texans.
Ten Texans from Worthington’s rival turkey town of Cuero visited for the weekend, including a few who’d never previously experienced snow, much less a temperature of 20 degrees and a wind chill of zero.
“I miss sweating,” proclaimed Darren Martin of Cuero before taking his icy leap into the 30-degree waters of Lake Okabena during the Deep Freeze Dip.
Martin was one of about 40 brave (or crazy?) souls to make the jump and safely emerge, having been part of the effort that raised approximately $35,000 for Project Lifesaver, the 501c3 non-profit that is the 2016 beneficiary of the dippers’ dollars.
Of the $35,000 total, $14,000 came in the form of matching funds from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation.
The Nobles County Sheriff’s Department intends to implement Project Livesaver, which involves tracking technology for the search and rescue of individuals with cognitive disorders (like autism and Alzheimer’s) who may wander into unsafe places and situations.
“It’s a good cause,” said Worthington attorney and Noon Kiwanis president Bill Wetering of his first-ever icy jump.
“And, I got roped into it; somebody manned me up. Two of my kids called this morning, telling me to reconsider and asking if I’d talked to my doctor, but I figure, with all the EMTs and doctors here, this is the safest place in the county.”
Safe, perhaps, but warm? Not even for the couple hundred spectators who clustered closely, shoulder to shoulder, along the shoreline.
Attired in hats, boots, mittens, snow pants, coats, scarves, ear muffs and other cold weather gear, the audience nonetheless shivered as they watched the scantily clad jumpers prepare for their voluntary dunkings.
“It’s kind of frozen out here - like the Nebraska football season,” teased emcee and RadioWorks co-owner Chad Cummings as Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation Executive Director Jeff Rotert neared the edge.
In all, 15 JBS staff members, including Wayne Verdoorn dressed as Popeye followed by co-worker Carlos as Olive Oyl, raised $250 each for the cause and made good on their promise to pursue the January lake swim.
Although the landscape was a hazy, wintry white and the east shore of Lake Okabena was obscured by blowing snow and light precipitation, a lime-green snow kite cruised the lake beyond the water hole and the colorful cast of jumping characters gave the crowd plenty to observe.
Pizza Ranch manager David Hartzler dressed as Superman for his jump, while attorney Andrew Titus took his fifth annual dip covered completely in a suit, tie and dress shoes.
Justin Grimmius showed up as Fred Flintstone, and Vicki Larson was a cute sailor girl before her drenching.
“YO-LO,” yelled Jenny Bosma, representing the Frost Riders Snowmobile Club in her jump.
Meanwhile, at the Worthington Ice Arena, a 24-team pond hockey tournament was underway. Skaters ranging in age from three to 50 played a total of 30 games, engaging in another celebrated winter sport.
“It was a great time for everyone to play some pond-style hockey,” said organizer Jason Johnson.
Near the end of the Deep Freeze Dip, Texan Clint Clark was among the last to jump in. His Worthington host, Kevin Prins, assured that a back yard hot tub awaited the game guest.
Clark’s Cuero contingent brought in over $3,000 for Project Lifesaver, and Clark summarized the group’s attitude, even as they shivered in the Minnesota snow and leapt into the chilly lake.
“We love Worthington,” yelled Clark. “You’re awesome people.

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