When most people in Wisconsin start thinking about the Polar Plunge around this time of year, the last things that come to mind are hot sand and palm trees. But for one Wisconsin police officer, that’s exactly what a very unique 2019 will hold.
In March, Burlington Police Officer Bryan Wangnoss will be taking the Abu Dhabi Dip in the middle of the Arabian Desert. The plunge into ice-filled pools in the capital of the United Arab Emirates will serve as a Special Olympics fundraiser at the conclusion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg® for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.
The highly selective Final Leg team will consist of members of law enforcement and Special Olympics athletes from around the world who will carry the Special Olympics Flame of Hope to every corner of the United Arab Emirates from March 3-14 to heighten awareness of the Special Olympics mission and the 2019 Games being hosted in Abu Dhabi March 14-21. Officer Wangnoss and Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete Zechariah Tietz of Milwaukee will be the two runners representing the Badger State.
“I’m excited to go to Abu Dhabi to spread the mission of Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run across the United Arab Emirates. Being a member of the Final Leg for the World Games is such an honor for those of us in law enforcement who support Special Olympics through the LETR,” Officer Wangnoss said.
“The Polar Plunge is the premier fundraising event we have. If we don’t lead the way with our participation how can we expect others to do it?” – Officer Wangnoss
Officer Wangnoss was selected to serve as a Guardian of the Flame in the Final Leg thanks to his many years of championing the Special Olympics mission as a committed member of the LETR. He has assisted in coordinating and promoting countless Special Olympics Wisconsin events and fundraisers in Racine County like the Torch Run and Ride with the Flame Motorcycle Ride. He has volunteered at local competitions by handing out awards to athletes and emceeing events. And of course, he’s been involved in the Polar Plunge.
For several years now Officer Wangnoss has served as the team captain for the Burlington Copsicles team that plunges in the Kenosha Polar Plunge. The team also competes in the Law Enforcement Challenge, which pits law enforcement agencies against one another in a friendly fundraising challenge during the Polar Plunge season.
He views the Law Enforcement Challenge as a critically important component of the LETR’s mission. “The Polar Plunge is the premier fundraising event we have,” Officer Wangnoss said. “If we don’t lead the way with our participation how can we expect others to do it?”
Because he understands how important a successful Polar Plunge is to the athletes of Special Olympics Wisconsin, Officer Wangnoss also helps with set-up for the Kenosha Polar Plunge. The event takes a small army of dedicated volunteers to ensure that it goes off without a hitch.
This kind of selflessness is exactly why Officer Wangnoss was selected to participate in the Final Leg. But for him, volunteering is no-brainer. “What I love most about LETR is the camaraderie between the officers and the athletes. The athletes do more for me than they would ever know,” Officer Wangnoss said.
“Special Olympics has been one of the greatest things that I have ever have had the privilege of being a part of.” – Athlete Zechariah Tietz
While the rest of the law enforcement officers participating in the Law Enforcement Challenge won’t have the luxury of plunging in one of warmest places on earth, they can take comfort in knowing that their efforts truly do make a huge difference for the athletes of Special Olympics Wisconsin. In 2018, Law Enforcement Challenge participants raised more than $110,000. Tietz, Officer Wangnoss’ partner for the Final Leg, sums up why this kind of support is so important to athletes like him.
“Special Olympics has been one of the greatest things that I have ever have had the privilege of being a part of. It has helped make me the man I am today and I wouldn’t even be here without it,” Tietz said. “I have made new friends and conquered challenges that made me stronger, learning important life skills along the way.”
To find out more information about how you can participate in the Polar Plunge to help athletes like Zechariah Tietz conquer challenges and learn important life skills, visit PlungeWI.org.