I woke up on the morning of Feb. 14 excited, but nervous. As I climbed out of my warm, toasty bed, I thought about what I signed myself up for.

“The Polar Plunge.” I thought, “Why of all things would I sign up for this?” As I continued to get ready and contemplate my question, the butterflies began to stir.

When I arrived at the Rec Center for registration, the fluttering in my gut only got worse. Although the delicious cookies and hot chocolate provided to participants helped calm me down, I still wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience. They began to line us up on the Hulman Center south patio and the crowd around me began to get excited. People were cheering, laughing and jumping, but my insides were still getting to me. My friends and I were placed in the back of the line, which made all of us very impatient. As we waited for the people in front of us to take their plunge, we fidgeted with anticipation.

After a while, I could finally see the other individuals jumping and getting out of the water, their expressions frozen in surprise and shock. Of course, this didn’t make me feel any better. As we finally reached the doors that led outside to the pool, the wind picked up and the snow seemed to fall even faster, blowing almost directly sideways. I turned toward my friends and said, “I have to go first!” I’m not sure if I was shaking from the cold or excitement when I stepped on the ladder, but by the time I reached the platform I stopped thinking, took a deep breath and jumped.

I can only imagine the expression on my face when I popped up from underneath the ice water: absolutely stunned. My freezing clothes clung to me as a walked as fast as I could to the other side of the pool, completely numb from head to toe. As I ran inside and grabbed my towel, I furiously tried to get the water off of me. One by one, my friends came in, as surprised and numb as I was. After we were all dry, we looked around and one another and just started to laugh.

“I can’t believe we just did that!” we all stammered, still giggling as we said it. We were shivering cold and never thought we would feel our toes again, but we all knew it was worth it. We didn’t do this for ourselves, but for betterment of others. My team raised a total of $510. Overall, everyone who participated in the Polar Plunge raised $32,278. Although we questioned what we were doing multiple times, it was absolutely worth it to make a difference in many individual lives and support the Special Olympics.