When it’s below 0 degrees, one might think jumping into a pool of water outdoors is the last thing Minnesotans would want to do.
Despite the -26-degree forecast, 89 participants last year immersed their entire bodies into a pit of water that only aerators kept from freezing. According to Russ Schwichtenberg, those who do it once often want to do it again.
“It’s like anything that’s challenging,” said Schwichtenberg. “Once you do it, you want your friends and others to experience it.”
For the third year in a row, friends, family members and co-workers will have the opportunity to take the Camp Omega Plunge into a water pit outside the Morristown Fire Hall. Teams and individuals are still welcome to sign up for the plunge, which begins with registration from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Morristown Community Center. Jumpers meet at 11 a.m. with the first jumper taking the plunge at 11:30.
Working with gift development fundraising, Schwichtenberg was tasked with the goal of raising $3.5 million dollars to fund an adult/family retreat center for Camp Omega in Waterville. Camp Omega partners with Minnesota Christian congregations to provide recreational activities, retreats and summer camps.
Schwichtenberg said the plunge, which started in 2018, keeps the excitement about the retreat center alive in the midst of fundraising. After four years of fundraising, and with groundbreaking planned for the fall, he said, “Now we’re getting serious.”
While Schwichtenberg himself has participated in the plunge as a team of one, he said it’s more fun with teammates. There’s no maximum number of participants per team, the biggest group last year had 18 members. Teams are encouraged to dress similarly or using a theme to be eligible for the “best dressed” prize of $50.
“You might not remember where you were Saturday, Feb. 22 at 11:30 a.m., but will remember that feeling if you do the plunge,” said Schwichtenberg. “It’s a breathtaking 20 to 30 seconds and all of a sudden it changes to refreshing. You get the euphoria of having done it.”
Steve Nordmeier of the Morristown Fire Department has been involved with the plunge since the beginning, announcing participants and preparing for the event beforehand.
“When [Russ] contacted me a couple years ago, I got the Fire Department on board to help with [the plunge], mainly to take care of it safety-wise,” said Nordmeier. “We have a couple people stationed in the water while everyone jumps in so they get out safe.”
The Community Center isn’t far from the water pit exit, said Nordmeier, so participants have easy access to warmth and refreshments.
In case some feel the urge to sign up for the plunge at the last minute, Schwichtenberg said participants are welcome to register any time up until the morning of the event. The Channel Inn in Warsaw, he said, is a fun team last-minute jumpers might consider joining.
A $50 fee will allow participants the “privilege to jump.” Shoes are required, and participants must prepare by bringing their own towels. Anyone who takes the plunge receives a medallion, and this year, they’ll also get their photos taken.
Even if participants are unfamiliar with Camp Omega, Schwichtenberg encourages jumpers to plunge with purpose, maybe in honor of someone or simply for some excitement. Having lost a close friend, he offers the piece of advice to make fun memories with loved ones while they’re still around.
While it’s not a requirement, some of the registered teams ask for pledges and sponsorships before the plunge. The top fundraising team will receive $200. Last year Trinity Lutheran Church in Janesville brought over $33,000. The Thrivent Financial team from Faribault raised over $8,500, and the Cannon River Hillbillies brought in $3,700.
“It’s worked out so nice the last couple of years; it just has,” said Schwichtenberg. “The donations and sponsorships are very appreciated. The plungers are very appreciated.”