Alexandria Cool School Plunge numbers are ‘blowing expectations out of the water’
The third annual event will be held at Discovery Middle School Wednesday, March 10
In the first two years of Discovery Middle School’s Cool School Plunge , more than $60,000 was raised.
The middle school has broken the Cool School Plunge record twice, beat its own record last year , and is on track to do so again this year.
Similar to fundraising, the highest number of students and staff will be participating in this year’s jump.
The average turnout for the first two school plunges was around 225 students and staff members. This year’s count was up to 269 participants as of Wednesday, March 3.
This year’s plunge will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, in the middle school parking lot.
Lukas Gotto, Discovery Middle School coach and technology integration specialist, points to the school’s goal of trying to build a culture of inclusion as the main reason why the event has been successful.
“I was really worried about what the recruitment process would look like this year with everything going on, but once again our kids and staff have really stepped up,” Gotto said. “We are very excited about the event and really vested to continue this awesome thing that really impacts so many students.”
Making a wave
A few more high school activity groups asked their coaches to sign up whole teams to jump, and Gotto hopes to eventually include the entire high school at future Cool School Plunges.
“We are currently blowing our expectations out of the water,” Gotto said.
The top three groups on the leaderboard for fundraising are the middle school football team ($4,277), girls high school hockey team ($3,372) and the swimming and diving team ($2,691).
Students raise money for the opportunity to plunge, and proceeds go toward both the Minnesota Special Olympics and Discovery Middle School.
The portion of donations distributed to the middle school helps provide resources that the school would otherwise not be able to purchase, such as portable scoreboards, baseball bags, drama props, backboard protectors and uniforms.
“There really is a long list that we simply couldn't have purchased without the Cool School Plunge money,” Gotto said. “Our kids and activities are benefiting greatly because of these dollars for years to come.”
Bringing people together
When planning this year’s plunge, Gotto said he wasn’t sure if the school would be able to host the event at all.
Many activities and experiences had been either postponed or cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainties.
But as decision time grew closer and COVID-19 numbers in Douglas County started to decrease, the school planned for a two-day event to accommodate the students’ hybrid schedule. That way, students coming on alternate days could still participate.
After transitioning back to a full in-person schedule, the event was recently consolidated back to just one day: March 10.
Rather than having hundreds of spectators attend in person, those interested in watching the event can do so through the internet livestream, which will be available on the middle school website.
As one of the five Unified Club advisors at the middle school, Gotto said he’s looking forward to seeing the whole day unfold.
“We are so excited to see the unity, inclusion and togetherness this event brings,” Gotto said. “Our students with needs gain friendships and interpersonal skills, and our gen ed students gain empathy and understanding of students with needs.”
Upcoming community plunge
The biggest thing Alexandria Police Officer Keith Melrose is looking forward to about the Cool School Plunge is the inaugural use of the Protainer-made Special Olympics trailer .
With the school board’s approval, Protainer dumpsters were transformed into swimming pools and transported to the middle school parking lot for the first two years of the Cool School Plunge.
Now, a specially designed plunge trailer will be used at Special Olympics events around Minnesota. Since the plunge trailer was thought of and built locally, Melrose said it will be an honor to see it used for the first time in Alexandria.
Melrose has been helping organize Polar Plunges in the area since 2007. This year’s city-wide Polar Plunge will be held at the Arrowwood Resort at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 11.
In light of COVID-19 guidelines, Melrose said there will be a limited number of people allowed in the plunge area and tents. Those jumping will still be immersing themselves in the lake, but it will look more like running in and running back out. Spectators may come to watch the plunge, but Melrose said people should consider wearing a mask and social distancing.
“Our numbers for the regular plunge are down significantly this year due to COVID, but we are still optimistic and excited about raising money for all our Special Olympic athletes,” Melrose said. “Whatever we can raise will help.”
To register for or donate to the Alexandria plunge, visit plungemn.org/events/alexandria .