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Special Olympics supporters take a plunge

1/26/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Crystal Katz is the only one making the leap, but the Polar Plunge is a family "thing" for her.

She was one of nearly 10 participants who braved the chilly wind Saturday morning to plunge into the icy waters in the outdoor pool at America's Best Value Inn, 2524 Vine.

The fifth annual event raised money for Special Olympics Kansas.

Katz, who dressed as Thing 1 of the Seuss Sisters team, has participated since the Hays Plunge started five years ago. She's driven from Lawrence, where she now lives, the past two years.

"It's a good fundraiser," she said.

Thing 2 of the Seuss Sisters team is her sister Annie Anschutz. Anschutz doesn't compete, but is the impetus behind Katz's participation.

Katz still remembers the year she jumped through 2 inches of ice on the pool.

"It's a little uncomfortable, but it's worth it," she said of the water Saturday.

Most of the participants, including Katz, jumped into the pool from the side, but a couple of teams waded in, then splashed around in the water.

Vanessa North of Ellis wore a Ninja Turtle outfit and competed as Team Awesome.

This is North's first year competing, and fundraising wasn't a problem, she said.

She just asked friends, co-workers and family members to contribute.

"I hit up all my family, 'If you love me, you'll give me a dollar,' " North said.

Cody Babcock and Derek Schmidt, both 17 and students at Logan High School, made the trip with their student council sponsor, Lonnie Jansonius.

They were the Power Plungers.

This is Schmidt's first year participating, but Babcock competed two years ago with other Logan High students.

"I don't remember being in the water too much, but I remember getting out," Babcock said.

The pair jumped into the water, sending up an icy spray.

Though their costumes covered them from head to toe, they quickly waded to the pool's edge.

"They get a kick out of it. It's fun," Jansonius said.

The event is organized by members of local law enforcement agencies.

Though teams can sign up on the Internet, most wait to sign up the morning of the event, said Brian Dawson, assistant Hays police chief, who helped coordinate the event.

It was cold earlier in the week, but "it's a beautiful day again," he said.

Mark Luck of the Hays Police Department participated last year.

He worked the Friday night shift this year so he didn't make the jump, but he doesn't rule it out in the future.

"When I jumped, it took my breath away," he said.