The Polar Plunging principal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Windsor High School students weren’t surprised when principal Bill Owen decided to plummet into the frigid waters of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in the 12th annual Polar Plunge last weekend to raise money for Special Olympics Virginia.

Why should they be? In 40 years in education, Owen has smooched pigs at Homecoming dances, fallen into dunk tanks at fundraisers, and taken a pie in the face during his years at Booker T. Washington High School.

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&uot;But the Plunge was by far the most dramatic,&uot; Owen said. &uot;Special Olympics has always been a spot that I’ve cared much about.

&uot;We have a very unique student body here at Windsor,&uot; he said. &uot;Students are very considerate of each other, and we stress individual differences. Not everyone can be a straight-A student. We can’t all jump, and we can’t all be football stars. But students here care a great deal about helping each other.&uot;

Back in early January they proved it. Owen told his students and faculty that he would take the renown plunge if they could raise at least $500. By the Thursday before the Plunge, they’d brought in over $600 (these same students and faculty raised over $300 for Owen to participate in last year’s MS Walk at the Norfolk waterfront).

Just after 11 a.m. Saturday morning, Owen, flanked by his wife Ginger, sister Becky and daughter Rainey, along with two of his grandchildren and some Windsor staff members, strolled down the Virginia Beach sands.

A large group of Special Olympians charged into the freezing water, and came right back at even higher speeds. Then Wilson and the rest of the over 2,000 plungers charged the waves.

&uot;I made sure I was in the front so I could get in and get back out,&uot; he said. &uot;I went into the water, and went right into a wave. I came up and out, pale as I could be. I was the third one in the changing tent, and I would have been there sooner, but my feet were so numb I couldn’t run to the tent.

&uot;Once I went in, it wasn’t really cold,&uot; Owen said. &uot;My wife said that my lips were blue, but within about 10 minutes, I was back to normal.&uot;

When school rolled back around on Monday morning, students couldn’t wait to see how the head Duke had fared. &uot;They were anxious to see if the old man had really done it,&uot; Owen said. &uot;Some said that they knew I would do it. Others said I was crazy, but if I were 16 or 17, I would have said that to a 62-year-old man. I’m glad I did it, and I would challenge other principals in this area to do it to raise consciousness about Special Olympics.&uot; The event raised over $300,000.

The next venture is scheduled for Feb. 5th of next year. Owen doesn’t know if he’ll make a second appearance. &uot;I told the faculty that I wouldn’t do it for $500,&uot; he said with a laugh. &uot;I could probably do it, but they’re going to have to up the ante!&uot;