First-time plunger raises almost $15,000

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Mark Kuhr will make his inaugural jump in today’s Penguin Plunge for Special Olympics by doing something, shall we say, outside the ice box.

He intends to make four consecutive 30-second plunges into the icy water of Whitefish Lake as an extraordinary leap of support for an organization he cares deeply about.

Once word about his daring plan got out around Whitefish, the fundraising “took on a life of its own,” Kuhr said.

As of 3 p.m. Friday he had raised $14,600 and was aiming for $15,000 by the time he jumps in at 11 a.m. today. He said pledges have ranged from $25 to $2,000.

An insurance broker in Whitefish, Kuhr has helped coach Special Olympians during the summer and winter games for the past three years. This personal challenge of making four plunges is all about those developmentally disabled athletes, not about him, he insists.

“To watch them achieve their goals is incredible,” he said. “This is their life. The games make them feel good about themselves, It gives them self-esteem.”

Nonprofit organizations such as Special Olympics have taken a hit during the prolonged economic downturn. That’s why Kuhr decided to put a little risk and a lot of drama into today’s event.

A member of the Whitefish Rotary Club’s “Whitefish Thunder” Penguin Plunge team, Kuhr will get a makeover from Alpine Theatre Project’s Luke Walrath, who is transforming Kuhr into a bona fide iceman.

“I’ll have an ice warrior face,” Kuhr said, adding that his attire otherwise is a pair of board shorts and a lightweight T-shirt.

He initially asked if he could simply stay in the frigid water for two minutes to beef up his fundraising effort, but the legal counsel for Special Olympics said no way. They were OK with four 30-second plunges, he said.

As a precaution Kuhr conducted a test run at Rest Haven, doing all four rounds in the water.

“It’s not easy, but it’s doable,” he said. “I was a huge, human Popsicle. It’s amazing how that water zaps you.”

Kuhr and the rest of Whitefish Thunder will be the first team into the water at 11 a.m. today at City Beach because the team has raised the most money, around $17,500.

The annual event raised $52,000 last year for Special Olympics.

“I hope this raises the bar” for fundraising, Kuhr said.

If you would like to support Kuhr’s effort, email him at or call him at 250-4618.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at


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