As I crept toward the edge of the icy platform in my socks and superhero costume, I was reminded of a scene in Titanic that 13-year-old me knew all too well (having seen the movie six times in the theater…). I could hear Jack saying “water that cold feels like 1,000 knives.” Until that moment, I hadn’t given much thought as to what it would feel like to do a polar plunge. But there I was in my leotard in a subzero ground blizzard. The four guys who inspired me to take the plunge peered at me through the window with some thumbs up. Their faces gave me that extra boost of warmth. So I jumped.
I woke up the next day encased in ice in a hospital bed. Just kidding—it wasn’t THAT cold. I don’t know if it felt like 1,000 knives, but it was at least 100. It was the kind of cold that leaves you gasping. But I got out, thawed in the hot tub and thought, “I would so do this again.”
And I did.
The second time I plunged, my coworkers and I fundraised and plunged as a team. With our costumes inspired by the movie Cool Runnings, we donned the name “Jamaican a Difference” and plunged as the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team. My coworkers have become some of my best friends and we bonded picking our theme, ordering our costumes, and holding hands as we plunged into the icy water (shameless brag: I’ve also taken home two “best costume” trophies). There was something special about being bonded over serving “our guys.” I think doing it together made it feel a little warmer.
I always wish I could buy gifts for the people we support—but as a staff member I am not allowed to. By people donating money to see me plunge (now that I’m thinking about it, I’m starting to wonder why my loved ones are so eager to pay to see me freeze), I’ve found a loophole to give gifts to enhance their lives. When I freeze for thirty seconds, the dollars I raise on Giving Hearts Day go even farther. Whether it’s shoes, art supplies, a chance to go somewhere new, or music therapy, I know how big of a difference this makes to people who often have to get by on just the essentials.
I felt like I was taking a plunge when I first started at CCRI. I had never worked with people with disabilities, but I jumped into it similarly—not expecting to lose my breath, but I do—almost every single shift. It takes my breath away when I get to experience the total freedom and authenticity of the four guys I am so lucky to work with. When I realize they trust me with the most vulnerable and private aspects of their lives and confide in me. When I see the love they have for one another and for life. When I am unable to understand why something is upsetting but I can be there and make sure I repeat, “you are not alone in this, I’m here,” I realize just how honored I am to be there. Because of them, I jumped into that icy water (and who knew it could make my heart so warm?) It was the least I could do because they taught me: if you are faced with a chance to take a plunge—do it.
The CCRI Polar Plunge is on Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 4–6:30 P.M. at CCRI (2903 15th St S in Moorhead). Visit http://www.CreativeCare.org/polarPlunge/index.html for information and to register.