If you find yourself at the Oshkosh Polar Plunge this year on February 17, you might just find yourself face to face with a polar bear as he emerges from the icy waters. And, no, we’re not even talking about Chilly Bear.
That’s right, this year Wisconsin basketball legend Brian Butch (AKA the Polar Bear) will be taking the Polar Plunge into Miller’s Bay at Menominee Park. Butch will be taking the Plunge on a team that will include two basketball players and a coach who will represent Team Wisconsin at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in July in Seattle, Washington.
The seeds for this great partnership were sown last summer when Butch held his first Brian Butch Unified Basketball Camp with SOWI athletes and Unified partners in Appleton. SOWI athletes Chris Jones and Corey Ehrgott, along with their Neenah High School coach Chad Oeftger, attended that camp. All three are now headed to the USA Games and will be plunging with Butch in Oshkosh. Butch is a former Wisconsin Mr. Basketball and All-Big Ten player with the Badgers, so him plunging with members of Team Wisconsin means a lot to the athletes and coaches. “I like it and I feel very special to have him (Butch) plunge with us,” Jones said.
Athletes like Jones and Ehrgott really look up to Butch and all he has accomplished in his storied basketball career. Oeftger hopes that Team Wisconsin will come back to Wisconsin with a gold in hand to make Butch and the rest of the state proud. “Having Brian Butch’s support means a lot to our Polar Plunge Team and Team Wisconsin. It shows that he supports local Special Olympics agencies and our Team Wisconsin basketball team going to Seattle,” Oeftger said. “I hope we bring home a gold medal for the great state of Wisconsin and show the rest of the country that Wisconsin has one of the best Special Olympics programs in the country.”
If they do bring home the gold, Butch’s successful basketball camp that Jones and Ehrgott trained at may have had something to do with it. “I think the kids enjoyed it. That’s ultimately what it was for. Everyone listened and learned… and took something away I think,” Butch said.
Butch’s natural coaching abilities and love of the game have helped propel him to the next stage of his career. He recently joined the Wisconsin Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks-affiliated G League team based out of Oshkosh, as an assistant coach. In fact, Jones went to a Herd game last week and was excited to see Butch there after having participated in his camp last summer.
Jones can also attest to the success of the Unified basketball camp. “I liked the event very much. It was great meeting Brian Butch and learning the game of basketball to get better,” Jones said.
The team also includes two Unified partners from Neenah High School and is aptly named Special Olympics Team USA. They are hoping to raise $2,500 and everyone on the team is really looking forward to taking the Plunge together. “I think it’ll be a great day and experience. I’m excited to be a part of it,” Butch said.
While this will be the first time plunging for all participants, Butch might have a leg up on his teammates in handling the cold. After all, he’s been getting in ice baths as a world-class basketball player for the last ten years. Oh, and did we mention he’s the Polar Bear?
You can support Brian Butch and his Special Olympics Team USA Plunge team here.