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Community First volunteers take the plunge for Special Olympics

First-time Polar Plunger now hooked on the cause; employees raise over $15,000 total

February 28, 2013

OSHKOSH -- Erica Ziegert committed to participating in the Feb. 16 Special Olympics Polar Plunge but then developed a case of cold feet before even hitting the icy water.

“I tried to back out because I realized what I was getting myself into,” said Ziegert, a Community First member services representative at the Fox Valley Technical College branch. “But, it was too late. An (FVTC) staff member threw $20 at me and said, ‘I want to see pictures!’”

After taking her first plunge, Ziegert just might be hooked on ‘Freezin’ for a Reason’ to help Special Olympians.

“It was SO cold, but it went by so fast I hardly remember how cold it was,” she said. “I swore I wouldn’t do it again after this one time. But now, I may just be addicted to it!”

“It was awesome,” said Barb Bacon, assistant head teller at Nicolet, a five-time jumper and leader of the Convicted for the Cause team that Ziegert was on. “Our team of 8 ‘convicts’ raised over $1,500 (nearly double the 2012 amount).  I think the air temp was about 18 degrees, so the water was actually warmer.”

Josh Bushmaker, Howard branch manager who dressed as the prison warden, was the top CFCU fundraiser with $915, well beyond his $600 goal. “That made me feel good, that I was doing something that other people believed in,” he said. “Yeah, it’s cold but it’s a very short time period. And, it’s for a good cause.”

Community First’s other team – Rebels with a Cause – raised nearly $1,400, led by Julie Pfund with $473.

“It was great,” said Pfund, a Darboy branch teller who plunged for a third time. “It was colder than last year but not as cold as when I did it in 2009. I’ll definitely be plunging again next year.” Her 4-year-old daughter Sophie wants to do the Pee Wee Plunge next year.

“I keep doing it because it's fun,” she said. “I like to do events that support kids. I have a 6-year-old nephew with Downs Syndrome, who is into sports. So I'm hoping that he might get involved in Special Olympics when he is old enough.”

Community First, a long-standing sponsor of the event, also pitched in by selling Polar Bear icons at all of its branches, raising $12,291. All told, Community First employees raised over $15,000 for the event.

The Fox Valley Polar Plunge is one of 12 such events across Wisconsin that raised money to support the nearly 10,000 children and adults across the state with intellectual disabilities through participation in sports training and competitive activities designed to develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image.

This year’s Polar Plungers by teams were:

Convicted for a Cause: Barb Bacon, Josh Bushmaker, Angela Gargo, Kerri Gustavus, Erica Ziegert, Cheryl Otto, Arno Lugviel and Danielle Rude.

Rebel with a Cause: Tony Balza, Claire Alanis, Kelly Bond, Ryan Bucher, Amy Hertzfeld, Niklas Jackson, David Jakl, Julie Pfund, Amy Ratliff, Jacquie Salmi, Brandie Van Asten.

Kudos also go out to Rita Diener and her team of tellers that handled recordkeeping and over $60,000 in cash donations as participants registered over two days: Becky Diener, Carrie Steinfort, Cindy Pierce, Cyndi Huolihan, Jen Prouse, LuAnn Moureau and Sandy Zitzelsberger.