Lee’s Summit Police Officer Jeremy Verhulst preferred the day less windy as he sat atop a Lee’s Summit restaurant to help raise funds for a coming event used to support the Special Olympics.
Verhulst spent nearly half a day Jan. 18 perched on the roof at Habanero’s Mexican Restaurant to raise money for nearly 2,300 metro-area Special Olympics athletes during the LSPD’s Cops on Top event.
Verhulst set a goal to raise $2,500 during Cops on Top to help fund his Super Plunge at the upcoming Polar Plunge fundraiser Jan. 24-25 at Longview Lake.
Super Plungers raise at least $2,500 for Special Olympics Missouri and plunge 24 times over 24 hours beginning Jan. 24 to support the 17,000 statewide Special Olympics Missouri athletes. The Polar Plunge is a project of the annual Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run, which also benefits Special Olympics Missouri.
“I’d rather it be cold than windy,” Verhulst said from atop the roof, a reference to the arctic cold blast that swept through the area a couple of weeks prior. “This wind is (unpredictable).”
“This is the 10th year that I’ve plunged and this is our 10th anniversary, so I have plunged every year,” added Lee’s Summit Police Officer Mark Wiesemann, who stood at ground level and marveled at his fellow officer’s determination braving the elements. “I’ll probably just go just once. I’ve had a couple of years where I doubled dipped, but as I have gotten older ... ”
Wiesemann, who recently received the John Michael Letz Award, has for the last 11 years served as the department’s Torch Run coordinator. The Letz award, established in 1994, is the highest award presented by the Torch Run program. It recognizes an individual whose efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics and who constantly works in support of SOMO athletes.
Under Wiesemann’s direction, the LSPD has raised more than $490,000 for Special Olympics Missouri. He is also the chairman of the Polar Plunge, the largest plunge event in the state.
During the nine year history of the Polar Plunge, the event has generated more than $1.3 million. Last year the event set an all-time high by raising $289,000.
This year’s goal is to raise $300,000.
“It’s extremely important,” Wiesemann said of the fundraising efforts for Special Olympics. “Our jobs sometimes you see so much bad. When you get involved with an organization like Special Olympics – and the athletes – it’s just amazing. I don’t think the word ‘hate’ is in their vocabulary. They’re accepting. They’ll take anyone; they don’t care what they look like, what their disability is, they are just totally accepting.
“Just watching the joy on their faces to have the opportunity to compete and belong like everybody else wants to belong is just amazing. A couple of the better days of my life have been tied to Special Olympics.”
The Polar Plunge is open to anyone 10 years or older. The event is hosted by police departments from Lee’s Summit, Belton and Kansas City. Day-of registration begins at 9 a.m. and the Plunge starts at noon. No wet suits are allowed and shoes are required.
Each participant is required to raise a minimum $75 to participate in the Polar Plunge. To register and raise fund online, visit www.somo.org/plunge to sign up. Paper registration forms are also available. Mail or deliver pre-registration forms and the minimum $75 contribution to: Special Olympics Missouri Plunge – 9001 W. 67th Street, Merriam, KS, 66202.
Prizes will be awarded to the top team, top school, top law enforcement agency and the participant/group with the most original costume will be presented with the “golden plunger award.”