Students and staff take plunge to help others


Andrea Henderson, Photography Editor

The good news for this year’s Polar Plunge participants was that, while the weather was cold, the water in the Ohio River was a bit warmer.
Not that it made all that much of a difference, especially when the air temperature was 24 degrees and the water was a frigid 38 degrees, senior Adia Achtzehn noted.
“I was freezing and it took me hours to warm up,” she said. “But I know it was all worth it.”
Baldwin Special Olympics Club members and sponsors were among the hundreds who took the plunge on Dec. 10 to benefit the statewide Special Olympics organization. Baldwin had 20 club members and two Special Olympics athletes participate in the event, along with club sponsors Tim Laughlin and Eric Jankoski, as well as district Supt. Dr. Randal Lutz.
The Baldwin Special Olympics club was able to raise about $3,000 this year, pushing the total Baldwin has raised over four years of participation to more than $10,000.
As participants will acknowledge, it’s not a fundraiser for the timid.
“When you first get into the water, it’s like a shock and you can’t feel what’s going on,” senior Olivia Sinkule said. “The water numbs your body, but the adrenaline keeps you going, making jumping into the freezing water easy.”
Although it was snowing and the temperature outside was below freezing, that didn’t stop club members or dampen their enthusiasm.
“I don’t mind the cold, and you get to hang out and have fun,” senior Amanda Shiflet said.
Others, meanwhile, focused on that slightly warmer water as a positive motivation.
“The water was surprisingly warmer than it was outside,” junior Claire Plunkett said.
The Polar Plunge is just one of the many events that Laughlin and Jankoski participate in with the Special Olympics Club.
Together they were able to create the STARS program, which gets schools from around Allegheny County together to participate in more Special Olympics events.
“We have about 15 to 20 schools that participate in our yearly events such as bocce, volleyball, and baseball, and we’re continuing to grow too,” Jankoski said.
Laughlin and Jankoski said they started doing the Polar Plunge and the STARS program to help get students to try new things and to teach kids the importance