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Fourth annual event raises $14,000 for Special Olympians
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

January 28. 2014 10:11AM
Give Marli Erickson a challenge, and she’s sure to give it a whirl.

And that’s just what Erickson and 62 others did Saturday afternoon, as they braved 18-degree temperatures and took the plunge into 60-degree water on behalf of Brandon Valley’s Special Olympics program.

Saturday’s Polar Plunge – the fourth – was extra special for Erickson, who was celebrating her 60th birthday. The Brandon native, now Rochester, Minn., resident, was challenged by her three grown children to take the plunge Saturday.

“I think it’s extraordinary that my kids feel I still have the gumption to do it,” she said wrapped in a fleece blanket bearing the name of her team, “60º Below! 1-25-54.”

“But they know me. They know I’m a gutsy lady, and this is the frosting on my birthday cake,” added the daughter of Burton Blair, who started the Presbyterian church here in Brandon.

Erickson was one of 63 to take part in the fourth annual Brandon Polar Plunge, raising $14,000 for the local and state Special Olympics programs, which was $2,000 more than last year.

While the water registered a relatively balmy 60 degrees, the 18-degree air temperature was a saucy counterpoint, and as one of the plungers, Jessica Lambertz, of Valley Springs, pointed out, “60 degrees is not that warm.”

Coty McGuire, who jumped in the first Brandon Polar Plunge, took the last two years off because of pregnancy. But McGuire was back Saturday, easily remembering the feeling of the chilly water she jumped into four years ago.

“It was very, very cold,” she said. “But it’s for a good cause, for the kids.”

McGuire teamed up with a group of fellow educators at Brandon Valley with a shower theme. She and four others were dressed as loofas, while their male counterparts came dressed in shower attire.

Kelsey Messerschmidt, assistant Torch Run liaison, said the Brandon Polar Plunge is one 15 scheduled in South Dakota this year. And she termed Saturday’s event as a true polar plunge.

“This is a fun way for people to give back to their community, and it can be one of those things they can cross off their bucket lists, too,” she said.

David Kull, Brandon’s police chief and a bagpiper, plunged wearing what appeared to be a camouflage skirt but was in fact “my tactical kilt.

“I’m comin’ for ya’, honey!” he hollered just before leaping after his wife, Virginia, who wore an antique blue prairie dress and bonnet into the tank. The Lord inspired her to make the Polar Plunge, she said, and, no, the Lord didn’t bail out on her in mid-air before she hit the water.

The Kulls were accompanied by several Brandon police officers, and the chief didn’t have to employ the threat of endless graveyard shifts to secure their support.
“I volunteered to do it,” said one of the dripping officers, Anthony Lingen. As for having another Polar Plunge in his future, “Oh, sure. I’ll do it as long as they have it here.”

Brandon lifeguards Taylor Olson, Sarah Conrad, Ryan Angerhofer and Lindsay Dohrman brought up the rear for the plungers. They brought their life-saving paraphernalia and dubious looks to the event. As the line slowly inched forward, Olson observed, “we talk about the cold water in May.”

“We’ll never complain about it again,” Conrad said.

Argus reporter Peter Harriman contributed to this report.

Dressed as loofas and "shower boys," Roxie Geerdes takes the leap for Special Olympics on Saturday at the Brandon Polar Plunge. Photo by Jill Meier

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