With Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle of it, February is always a romantic month. But for Special Olympics Wisconsin, February 2019 may just go down as the most romantic one yet. This month, two couples got engaged in high-profile ways related to Special Olympics Wisconsin!
Andrew and Maddie
February 16 will be a date Andrew Gerbitz and Maddie Ehlers remember forever. That’s the date the couple got engaged when Gerbitz proposed to Ehlers during a zumba class at YMCA at Pabst Farms, where both are Special Olympics athletes.
As the two were in class together, Andrew suddenly got down on one knee. “I was shocked. He surprised me by getting down on one knee. I love him and I was really happy,” Ehlers said.
Even though it was a complete surprise to Ehlers, it was something that had been in the making for quite some time.
The newly engaged pair met through Special Olympics over nine years ago, and have been dating for five years this May. In concert with their families, they’ve been talking about marriage for a couple years now. As things got more serious, Gerbitz started inviting Ehlers to some weddings in his own family, which made the idea that much more appealing.
Although less than two weeks have passed since the proposal, the families are already planning for the big day, with hopes of a summer 2020 barn wedding near their hometown of Oconomowoc. They’re even thinking as far ahead as the honeymoon. “I think we’ll go to California or Hawaii maybe,” Ehlers said.
Although the families were prepared for the big occasion, bringing a handful of friends and family members to witness and document the proposal, one thing they might not have been prepared for was viral fame. TMJ4 was there to document the big day and the station’s story of the proposal has over 600,000 views and counting on Facebook. This is all for good reason as the profound love that Gerbitz and Ehlers display for each other is truly infectious. “They always say to each other, ‘I can’t take my eyes off of you,'” Ehlers’ mother, Mary Beth Freckmann, said. “This is just the beginning of their love story.”
“This is just the beginning of their love story.” – Ehlers’ mother, Mary Beth Freckmann
Chynna and Mathew
On February 2 at the Kenosha Polar Plunge, Chynna Rose and Mathew Buckta also created a memory that will last a lifetime.
Before taking the chilly jump, Mathew got down on one knee and proposed to his Rose. The Polar Plunge was an ideal location for the big moment because it holds special meaning in their relationship.
The two have been participating in the plunge since 2016, when Buckta and Rose were just friends and he encouraged her to try it for the first time. “I convinced her to do the Polar Plunge with me and professed my love for her the night before, and one month later we became a couple,” Buckta said.
The timing of it in their lives was especially significant as well. “We were both in rough spots in our lives, and it was inspiring to see all of the athletes overcoming adversity and keeping positive attitudes. The tenacity of the athletes brought us closer and encouraged us to fight hard everyday and stay positive when it felt like things were falling apart, and I am grateful for that,” Rose said.
And they haven’t looked back since that first Polar Plunge. They began dating, and the Polar Plunge became an annual tradition. But since they are veteran Plungers and since Rose knows the drill, Buckta had to get creative with his plan to surprise her.
He coordinated with the WIIL ROCK crew, who was emceeing the event, to have them invite the pair up for a fake award. Little did she know she’d be taking her next plunge as an engaged woman. “I was totally taken by surprise. We listen to the same radio station, so I was really confused at first because I hadn’t heard of any competition. And when he won I looked at him and said ‘hey that’s you, go up there,'” Rose said. “He told me to come with him, which I thought was odd since he won. But I went up there and had no clue what was going on until he got down on one knee and proposed.”
After the proposal, some tears of joy, and lots of applause from the crowd, the two were joined by the WILL ROCK team as they all plunged together.
For as smooth as it all ended up going, it had Buckta on pins and needles before it all went down. “I was excited and nervous to do it in front of a lot of people. I was pacing back and forth for 30 minutes before it happened,” Buckta said.
The two plan on getting married sometime next year, and they have a few locations in the state that are special to them in mind. This time around, however, don’t expect it to involve quite so many strangers. “Even though the proposal was a big spectacle, it will probably be a small ceremony with close friends and family, and no matter where or when it is, it will be special,” Buckta said.