Batavia HS BPA Takes the (Polar) Plunge for Special Olympics
Call it a rite of passage or a family tradition. Either way, for the students of Batavia High School BPA, waking up early on a Saturday morning to jump into a pool of freezing cold water in the middle of winter has been a staple event for the past nine years.
This is the Polar Plunge®. Each year the event has been held, the Greater Cincinnati Polar Plunge has offered many participants not only the chance to enjoy a cool, refreshing dip into icy cold water on a (sometimes) snowy winter morning, but more importantly it serves as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness of Special Olympics, its programs and its athletes.
Standing on the platform as the event MCs give the countdown, Batavia BPA students Allysha Dunham (junior), Megan Wallace (junior) and Morgan Cravens (sophomore) brace themselves for the freezing cold (35°F) water they’re about to experience. And although they may look like they’re getting ready to chicken out, the girls jump together into the air, ‘strike a pose’ and make a splash!
“It’s a lot of fun!” said Megan Wallace. “This is my second year participating and it’s just such a good opportunity to raise money for a good cause.”
For advisor Angie Kovacs, this event never gets old and is one that she has been proud to support for many years. “I always love seeing them work as a team to achieve a goal and am proud that they put so much time and effort into Special Olympics activities,” she said. “The best part is when they continue servant leadership once they graduate. It becomes a permanent part of their life. We need more people like that in the world.”
Each year, as a new class of students participate in the plunge, there are usually some Batavia BPA graduates that have come back to donate their time and their support to the new batch of students. Some have even organized teams. This commitment of servant leadership that has been instilled in them is why more than 700 Batavia BPA members have joined the effort and raised over $80,000 for Special Olympics in the past nine years.
As if raising money and awareness for Special Olympics wasn’t already a rewarding experience for the students of Batavia BPA, for the last two years, there’s been an added incentive for plungers as the top two student fundraisers get to push their Assistant Principal (Darren Stevens) and English Teacher (Danielle Newman) into the pool.
According to teacher Danielle Newman, when she was asked to support BPA again, without hesitation she said yes. “I think it is important to let students know that the staff and rest of the school support them in this awesome cause,” she said. “I am so proud of our students. Every year they seem to go above and beyond what is expected of them.”
Each member is only required to raise the minimum of $50 to participate in the Polar Plunge according to Mrs. Newman, but yet most of them exceed that.
“Our top fundraiser raised over $1,200. This is amazing,” she said. “To see these young adults support something like this makes me so proud of our school.”
This year’s top fundraisers for Batavia BPA were Gabby Hattar (1st) and Kirsten Hall (2nd). For Gabby, it’s not as much about winning the chance to push Mrs. Newman in the pool, as it is more about seeing the work through to the end. She’s participated in the polar plunge for the past three years, and every year she’s been the top fundraiser for her chapter. raising over $1,000 each year.
“I love volunteering and helping people,” Gabby said. “It’s rewarding for me to be able to raise money for an organization like Special Olympics, and I want to show I can jump in because I care.”
Amy O’Neill, a representative from Special Olympics, shared that the Polar Plunge fundraising event is a top initiative for the organization and one can be found in pretty much every state. What’s unique about this particular event is that it is one of the first efforts where two states (Ohio and Kentucky) came together and joined forces. Over the past 14 years of this collaboration, she has seen some incredible conditions for the event too.
“We did have a year where the ice was so thick on top of the pool that we had to use an auger to cut the ice off,” she said. And then there was that time a few years back where they experienced a level three snow emergency and had blizzard-like conditions. “But we still jumped.”
Supporter, Batavia BPA alumni and former Chapter Vice President Mitch Davis shared that as business professionals, not only do they look to better the business world, but to also better the world around them. “To spread joy and love is our goal, and one way to prove it is plunging for those who need us in order to follow their dreams.”
Of course, no one will dispute that a healthy dose of competitiveness is part of it, too. The students and alumni of Batavia BPA are up against corporations, universities and public service teams and they try to beat them all in fundraising. And at the end of the day, Batavia High School BPA did just that – as they have every year according to their advisor – being recognized as the 2019 Greater Cincinnati Polar Plunge Top Fundraising Team – School/University Division. And once again, they have the trophy to prove it.