Retiring Raymore-Peculiar School District superintendent Jeff Kyle will be making his final plunge as a Panther into a frigid, icy cold lake on Saturday, Jan. 26.
In his sixth year of participating, the annual Kansas City Polar Plunge event held from noon-2 p.m. at Longview Lake in Lee’s Summit, continues to have a special place in Kyle’s heart.
“After the statewide Missouri Student Council adopted the Special Olympics as it’s organization’s charity, our high school student council came over one day and asked me if I would join the team and plunge,” Kyle said. “I have a problem of telling kids ‘no’ so I have been doing it ever since.”
The event serves as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics, as individuals, businesses and organizations support local Special Olympics athletes by jumping, diving or crawling into the sparkling, frigid waters across the state of Missouri.
Since its inception 13 years ago, 6,263 people across the state have taken the plunge, raising $1.3 million for the Special Olympics.
As many as 85 to 90 students from both the district’s middle and high schools get involved each year, Kyle said.
“We’ve been probably one of the largest groups in the state that have taken the plunge for several years now,” he said.
Raymore-Peculiar also uses the event to compete with area schools, including Belton.
“We always have a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money,” Kyle said.
Proceeds support year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 15,000 children and adults who participate in Special Olympics Missouri.
Kyle will participate alongside the Raymore-Peculiar Panther Team comprised of students as Saturday’s high temperature is forecast for a mere 33 degrees.
Last year’s plunge wasn’t much warmer, Kyle added, when the lake water temperature was 34 degrees and a hole had to be cut in the ice so participants could make the plunge.
“They always end up having to cut ice off of the lake. I remember one year that the rescue divers were standing out on the ice where we were supposed to go in and it was about a foot and a half thick, so it’s really cold. That is a fact,” Kyle said. “As you’re coming out of the water, you feel your body moving but it doesn’t feel like you’re getting any closer. It feels like pins and needles all around you.”
Kyle and the rest of Raymore-Peculiar team are still looking to raise money. Kyle is looking to raise $3,000 and the district’s goal is $15,000.
Those interested in donating can make a contribution online at www.somo.kintera.org/plungekc/jeffkyle or searching for “TeamRayPec.”