Cold for a cause: Viterbo Education Club raises over $7,000 for the Special Olympics


Carter Steger, Freelance Writer

On March 5, the Viterbo Education club hosted their annual Polar Plunge fundraiser. The event took place at the Black River Beach in La Crosse, Wis. Over $7,000 were raised and the proceeds went towards the Special Olympics. 

The Polar Plunge has become an annual event for the Viterbo Education club. This year, members of the Viterbo V-Hawks for a Cause team raised $7,000 for the Special Olympics, beating their initial goal of $5,000. In total, 26 Viterbo students helped with the fundraising efforts. They sought out members of the community and Viterbo itself to contribute to their goal. The event is coordinated by the Educations club advisor, Josh Lichty. 

Lichty has been a Professor of Education at Viterbo for roughly five years and has been fundraising for the Polar Plunge for about 10 years. One of Lichty’s own students inspired him to participate in fundraising opportunities. Prior to his time at Viterbo, Lichty worked with a student that had Down Syndrome. “He was a great kid, just a stud who loved athletics,” said Lichty.  

Lichty wanted his student to have the same athletic opportunities as his other students and decided to fundraise for the Special Olympics. He began doing research and found the Polar Plunge, an event which gave students an opportunity to compete and be active.  

Lichty’s love for athletics and helping others came together as a “perfect storm.” “It’s more than just raising money,” Lichty says, “it’s about supporting and bringing everyone together.” He emphasizes that building a community is a big part of being both an educator and a V-Hawk.  

Lichty believes that “Viterbo is a verb,” emphasizing turning thought into action. To Lichty, the Polar Plunge is also about getting young people to realize they can have an impact. “When people hear Polar Plunge immediately their mind goes to, I’m not jumping in cold water,” says Lichty. The Education Club continues to recruit students, acknowledging that “some of those people could be great team members.” 

“It’s all about communication and understanding,” shared Lichty. “The Polar Plunge is not about just jumping in cold water. It’s about raising money for Special Olympic athletes.” Participants are not required to jump in the water. Only 15 students braved the cold, but the others came to show support. 

Each year, Lichty finds students returning to help raise money for the Special Olympics. The event continues to grow with new students joining each year. One thing that the Ed club and Lichty try to do with all their members that help fundraise is to help them grow. Lichty views it as a learning experience. “Opportunities like this can help educate our campus even more about not just the cause, but just about students, adults with disabilities and who they are,” says Lichty. If a student can walk away from raising money having made a meaningful connection with the cause, that is most important, in Lichty’s eyes.  

“Thought into action” is a quote that perfectly describes the mindset you will find with this Professor of Education. The compassion for helping others is certainly contagious and the Polar Plunge is evidence of that. The Plunge is more than just jumping in cold water – it’s about raising money to help others achieve their dreams, and that is something that runs deep into the roots of Viterbo.