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Phoenix Forward

Freezin’ for a reason at the 2012 Polar Plunge

Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Pictured (from left): James Henderson, Michael Tadros and Henry Boggs at the 2012 Polar Plunge.

“The water started to sting my feet, and I thought to myself, This might be as far as I go,” says Hector Santana, a University of Phoenix alum who recently graduated with a Criminal Justice Administration degree. “Then James Henderson comes flying by shouting ‘go big or go home,’ so I went big. I ended up going all the way in the water.”

Santana was one of several new recruits for this year’s Southern California Campus Polar Plunge® team led by James Henderson, campus college chair of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus, and Ray Rawlins, campus college chair of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus. The group led an especially successful fundraising plunge on February 18.

This annual charitable event is held nationwide to raise money and support the efforts of the Special Olympics. Criminal-justice organizations have a special connection because they’re the largest contributor in the country to the Special Olympics. “Plungers,” as participants call themselves, take a swim in frigid waters — in this case, the Pacific Ocean off San Diego’s Oceanside Pier beach. Plungers decide ahead of time how far they’ll go in the water and how long they’ll stay in. For some, getting their feet wet is enough; for others, staying in the water until the lifeguards make them get out is a badge of honor.

This year’s University of Phoenix Polar Plunge team one-upped a few achievements from the previous year. It was a larger group, and the first-timers, including faculty members, students and alumni such as Santana, led the team to victory: Hanging on to the 2011 title, the team once again claimed the Most Plungers award. The new team also received the Highest Team Donations award, for contributions totaling more than $2,700, more than double last year’s haul of $1,285.

“There was such a great spirit of volunteerism out there,” Henderson says. “We had a 78-year-old faculty member go in the water. He went waist deep!”

James J. Ness, PhD and dean of the University of Phoenix College of Criminal Justice and Security, also made an appearance to cheer on the plungers and support the cause.

For those who may be a bit reluctant to brave the cold waters of the Pacific in February, plunger Henry Boggs — a faculty member at the Southern California Campus and a retired criminal-justice professional with more than 30 years’ experience in the Irvine Police Department — has some advice for you: “Fear not,” he says. “Even though the water may be cold, the cause warms your heart.”


Polar Plunge is a registered trademark of Special Olympics Inc.

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