Milton High School staff, students take a dip to support the Special Olympics
WHITEWATER — Milton High School students and staff rubbed their bare legs together as they stared at the pool of water they would be jumping into.
What came next was a high-pitched screech or gasp while leaping into the water at the Special Olympics Wisconsin Polar Plunge Saturday afternoon.
"It took my breath away, I'll tell ya that," Jeremy Bilhorn, Milton High School principal said after he took a dip in the freezing water.
While he shivered in place waiting for dry clothes to put on, he smiled and applauded the other 43 students, staff, and administrators from the high school who also took the leap to support Special Olympics athletes Saturday afternoon.
The school raised more than $6,500 for the Polar Plunge in two weeks.
"It's amazing," Bilhorn said. "It's a tribute to both the students and staff but also the whole Milton community."
The event brought together students from all groups to raise money through the school's new organization Project UNIFY, said Brianna Smith, Milton High School special education teacher and Project UNIFY school liaison.
Project UNIFY is a branch of Special Olympics, and is an education-based project that uses education and sports programs to engage youth to foster school communities that advocate for people with disabilities.
The goal is to make sure all students have equal opportunities to attend activities.
This is the first year Project UNIFY has existed at the high school. The high school received a grant in December to start the organization at the school.
Ross Lemke, a senior and member of student council, has been attending Project UNIFY meetings. He aspires to be an elementary or special education teacher.
"I want to make a difference in the world," Lemke said. "As cheesy as that sounds, I do. And I thought this was a good start."
The goal was to raise $4,000.
When Smith found out they surpassed the goal she was pleasantly surprised.
"I just don't think anyone thought we would have that much participation," Smith said.
She gives the credit to the students.
"They do really care about each other and they know this money is going towards the Special Olympics so our students who are in special education can compete in sports and get the same benefits that they get out of sports," Smith said.
Because the school surpassed the $4,000 goal, Bilhorn will be shaving his locks. When asked how he felt about it he chuckled and said it is all for a good cause.