John Walker, human services major from Spearfish, will take part in this weekend's Special Olympics Polar Plunge at the Spearfish Rec Center.
After seeing a poster for the South Dakota Special Olympics Polar Plunge, Black Hills State University student John Walker decided to take on a challenge and asked his fellow classmates to do the same.

This weekend, Walker, a human services major from Spearfish, will brave the below freezing temperatures and plunge into the icy water at the Spearfish Rec and Aquatics Center in a costume designed by the class that donated the most money for the Special Olympics annual fundraiser.

The Polar Plunge is at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Spearfish Rec and Aquatics Center.

Walker’s challenge began two weeks ago when he went to BHSU classrooms with School of Behavioral Sciences students and vowed to donate a pizza party to whichever class raised the most money. That class also earned the privilege of designing the costume for Walker’s plunge persona, Captain BS (Behavioral Science).

The response was overwhelming, Walker said. So far, in a little more than two weeks $660 has been raised by the students. “I am amazed at the support,” Walker said. “I thought I would see some pocket change and a few dollars here and there. But I’ve seen $5, $10, $20.”

In the first day alone, Walker collected more than $200 from his classmates. “All these students are in human services, sociology and psychology. They will have to care for people, and I think they have their minds and hearts in the right places because this just shows it.”

Since two classes raised more than $100, Walker is providing a pizza party for both of them.

Walker chose to do the Special Olympics Polar Plunge due to the connection the BHSU School of Behavioral Sciences already has with the organization. Dr. Emilia Boeschen, an assistant professor of psychology, and a team of student research assistants recently traveled to South Korea for the Special Olympics World Games to continue their study of performance anxiety with athletes with intellectual disabilities.  

Two other students, Rachel Richardson, human services and sociology major from Rapid City, and Jaime Nupen, human resources major from Brookings, are also jumping with Walker as his sidekicks. Walker graduates this spring but said that Richardson already said she will carry on the Polar Plunge tradition next year.

Walker said he is not nervous about plunging into the freezing water; however, he is nervous about what his fellow classmates will have him wearing.

“I’ve heard talk of a pink cape, pink tutu and pink tights.”