Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, they say.
When it comes to joining the Special Olympics movement as a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Wisconsin, this certainly holds true. Every member of the LETR has his or her own unique story about how they got hooked on the cause. But what doesn’t seem to change much in the stories is: once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.
“After the first try I was hooked. Getting the opportunity to meet several of the athletes was such an inspiration to be involved.”
Patrol Captain Shawn Becker of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department is one of those “hooked” LETR members. His dedication came by way of his daughter, who has been plunging in Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Polar Plunge with her water ski show team for almost a decade now in Wisconsin Rapids.
“After seeing Jordan (his daughter) plunge and how big of an event this was to support such a great cause, I decided to give it a try. After the first try I was hooked,” Becker said. “Getting the opportunity to meet several of the athletes was such an inspiration to be involved.”
2017 marked Becker’s fifth year of plunging. And thanks to his increased dedication to the LETR and Polar Plunge over the years, the year-in-plunging was an even more remarkable one for the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.
After swiftly moving up the leader board of the Law Enforcement Challenge over the last few years, Becker’s Wood County Sheriff’s Department team took first place in 2017, raising $6,717.08 for Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes. The Law Enforcement Challenge gives law enforcement Polar Plunge teams from around the state the opportunity to compete against each other to see who can raise the most money for the Polar Plunge. In 2017, law enforcement teams raised more than $101,000 for Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes. This was a huge jump from 2016 when they raised around $80,000 and 2015 when they raised a little over $63,000.
“Before the fifth plunge several spectators were yelling I needed to do a belly flop. So I did. I’m game to do it again. It’s worth it to support such a great cause.”
The Wood County Sheriff’s Department won the 2017 title after placing fourth in 2016 and seventh in 2015. As Becker and his co-workers became more involved in the Polar Plunge and the LETR, their team and its enthusiasm grew. By this year, the team consisted of nine deputies – all four patrol lieutenants and five deputies, including Becker. “Our plunge team started to grow three years ago when our Special Response Team wanted to participate with me. With so much community support, we felt this was a perfect way to give back,” Becker said.
In the three years of the Polar Plunge Law Enforcement Challenge, the Wood County Sheriff’s Department has raised almost $14,000. And of course, this is on top of the fundraising many of them do through other LETR events like Cop on a Rooftop, Run with the Cops and the Torch Run, which was especially memorable for Becker this year. Due to the Law Enforcement Challenge victory, Becker was able to conclude the Torch Run by carrying the Flame of Hope during the Opening Ceremony of the State Summer Games in Stevens Point.
Given his daughter’s influence in his commitment to Special Olympics Wisconsin, it should come as little surprise then that Becker’s daughter talked him into doing one of the most committed – and daring – things one can do in support of the organization. This year Becker became a “super plunger.” On a day when it was about 11 degrees with windchill factored in, Becker plunged five times on the same day to achieve super plunger status. Super plungers are also required to raise at least $1,000. Becker raised more than $3,300. Oh, and just for good measure, he turned around and plunged a sixth time with his colleagues of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.
While it may be a stretch to say Becker’s “hooked” on super plunging now, he’s certainly a good sport about it. “Before the fifth plunge several spectators were yelling I needed to do a belly flop. So I did,” Becker said. “I’m game to do it again. It’s worth it to support such a great cause. Plus I will probably strongly suggest it too!”
Perhaps for the 2018 Polar Plunge he’ll pass the super-plunging baton to some of his Woods County Sheriff’s Department teammates. Or perhaps he’ll “strongly suggest it” to his daughter.
After all, she’s the one who got him hooked on plunging and the LETR for Special Olympics Wisconsin in the first place.
To find out more information about how you can participate in the 2018 Polar Plunge to help over 10,400 Special Olympics athletes throughout Wisconsin, visit plungewi.org.