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Hundreds brave frigid water for Polar Plunge 2013

Published On: Mar 02 2013 06:10:14 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 02 2013 07:52:59 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. – -

Hundreds of people were freezin' for a reason Saturday.

The Polar Plunge benefiting the Special Olympics kicked off at noon at Pettibone Beach.

People taking the plunge raise money and then run into the freezing cold water.

Thankfully, there are hot tubs set up for them after they make it out.

Organizers said it's a fun way for people to take on the Wisconsin cold while also raising money for the Special Olympics.

"One hundred percent of the proceeds go to Special Olympics and it stays in this area of the state,” said event coordinator Kerry Gloede. “We have about 350 athletes in this area of La Crosse and then about 1,700 in this region. So all this money stays and benefits athletes in our area."

For many of these plungers, it's their first time taking the dip into the chilly Mississippi, but for two locals, it's something they look forward to every year.

Friends Keith Torgerud and Pat Scheller wouldn't miss the Polar Plunge for anything.

“It’s one of the biggest days of the year for me,” said Scheller.

“Over the years, I've cancelled vacations,” said Torgerud. “I've said, ‘there's no vacations on the first weekend in March’ because of the plunge.”

And this year, they're wearing a new motto to live by.

“It says ‘entonces solo habia dos’ and then there were two,” said Torgerud.
Torgerud and Scheller are the last two remaining plungers who have participated every single year since the event began 15 years ago.

“There's been snow, there's been hail, there's been sleet and rain, there's been bikinis,” they said.

After 15 plunges, they say supporting the Special Olympics is what makes it worth it every time.

“Let me tell you, they're the happiest, most joyful (and) friendliest people I've ever met in my life, and that's what got me going,” said Scheller.

But these two pros don't just run in.

“You've got to go under,” they said. “Our team, you have to go under the water. You have to get the hair wet and you have to touch some of the ice.”

After a touch of the ice and a quick high-five, the race toward the hot tubs begins.

“I think it went really well,” said Scheller. “We made a new friend today. Our third plunger (is) a nice guy.”

It turns out there was another plunger making his 15th straight plunge too.

And that can only mean one thing for this team of two.

“We thought there were only two and now our team name is, ‘and then there were three,’’” said Torgerud.

“And how do you say that in Spanish?” Scheller asked Torgerud.

“Entonces solo habia tres,” Replied Torgerud.

“We need to get new shirts now,” said Scheller.

This year's Polar Plunge is also extra special because Saturday was Pat's birthday.

Scheller and Torgerud said the polar plunge tradition just started out with a group of friends, but throughout the years, family members have now joined them as well.

A new record was set by TRANE company employees for the largest group ever to take the plunge.

A hundred employees took the challenge.

The goal was to raise $10,000, but they blew past it raising more than $16,000.

One of the employees, Virginia Cress said she'd shave her head if they met the goal and she stayed true to her promise.

She said it's a bit chilly without her hair, but it was well worth it.

“It's cold, but it checked two things off my bucket list,” said Cress. “I wanted to shave my head for charity and donate my hair for Locks of Love, so I killed two birds with one stone and it came for a great cause."

TRANE employees have been plunging for about seven years now, but this is by far their largest group.