Terwiske raises money, plunges for super cause



Before trotting into frigid water at Prides Creek Park Lake in Petersburg on Saturday, Rose Terwiske transformed into a superhero.

Unlike Superman, however, she didn’t hide when the blue cape — branded with the insignia of a masked, cartoon polar bear diving downward — was wrapped around her body.

She smiled, danced and celebrated. She almost cried. The Jasper woman had accomplished something no one in Dubois County ever had before.

She had joined an elite team. She became a Special Olympics super plunger.

According to the Special Olympics Indiana website, the state’s super plunger program “dares participants to go beyond the call of duty” when it comes to raising money and participating in the organization’s seasonal polar plunges. In 2019, only 19 Hoosiers were honored as super plungers.

“Just to see the joy on their faces, that’s why we do it,” Terwiske, 58, said of the athletes for whom she raises funds. “It’s all for them.”

The plunging events challenge Special Olympics supporters across the state to leap into freezing water for a good cause. Leading up to and after the plunges, dollars are raised for the nonprofit organization.

To earn the distinction of super plunger, participants must raise at least $4,000 for the group and plunge at a minimum of two plunge sites during what is known as polar plunge season, including the Indianapolis Plunge this weekend.

Terwiske will check off the Indy plunge requirement on Saturday. She is on pace to shatter the fundraising quota.

Since Oct. 1, Terwiske has pooled $6,015. She started by sending out 180 letters, and packed more in her purse to pass off to friends and strangers.

“I’m a very outspoken person,” she said when asked about her secret to success. “And I really don’t know a stranger. So, I’ll just ask people all the time. Constantly ask people, and tell them.”

Even when she stopped asking, the money kept coming in.

All the dollars Terwiske raised will be funneled into Special Olympics, with 60% of them going directly to the Dubois County chapter.

There, they will pay for year-round activities for 75 active Special Olympics athletes. Plunge fundraising constitutes a huge chunk of the local organization’s budget.

Throughout her three-year plunging career, Terwiske has raised about $10,500. Her Special Olympics volunteering dates back to her middle school days, when she would help the athletes in Saint Meinrad. Locally, she recalled the organization “went away” for a while, but when a chapter launched in Dubois County in 2001, she hopped right back on board.

Her daughter, Stephanie, is an athlete in the Dubois County Special Olympics chapter. Terwiske is currently on the group’s management team and is also the liaison for the county at the nearby polar plunge.

Even though she’s reached the tip of the iceberg, she doesn’t plan on coasting. Her goal in 2021 is to raise a whopping $8,000.

“It makes them feel important,” Terwiske said of the Special Olympics. “It makes them feel like they belong. It makes them feel like, ‘I can do this.’ A lot of them, it gives them a purpose. It gives them a drive to do something.”

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