Later this month, a group of workers from the Missouri Department of Corrections will continue a long-standing tradition to support a good cause.
Adam Koestner, a DOC case manager working at Algoa Correctional Center, heads up the Davis Dawgs team for the Polar Plunge for Missouri Special Olympics.
This year's plunge — where fundraising teams run into wintry water — is scheduled for Saturday at the Lake of the Ozarks.
This is the 16th year Koestner has been involved in the Polar Plunge.
"When I started, there were eight of us; and at one point we had over 60 involved," Koestner said. "This year, we're looking at 30. We figure if we can get you to join a group for food and drinks in cold weather, we can talk you into jumping into some cold water."
Koestner started as a guard and worked his way through the ranks, eventually making sergeant. Nine years later, he decided to go to college and get his degree so he could "work on the other side of things at DOC."
Koestner said most of the Dawgs team members still work at Algoa, but others have transitioned to other institutions and still come together for this event.
"In 2003, when I first started working in DOC, they asked if I'd be willing to do this, and I didn't know a lot about Special Olympics at the time," Koestner said. "They enticed me with 'there would be tailgating and everyone enjoys it.'"
In 2004, Koestner was deployed in the Armed Services in Kuwait and that was the last time he wasn't able to plunge.
"When I got back home, I got back into it and took a more active role," Koestner said. "I ended up taking the team over when a couple of the original founders left the prison system."
Koestner also has a reason close to his heart for continuing to plunge.
"My now 8-year-old niece from Jefferson City was born with Down syndrome," Koestner said. "So it really hit close to home, and ever since then I've been trying to become even more involved. To my knowledge I'm the only one on our team that has a family member with Down syndrome."
Koestner said the team usually raises around $10,000 a year.
This will be the third year in a row Koestner has participated in the Super Plunge event, scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday at the Polar Plunge. Participants do 24 separate plunges over a 24-hour period.
Koestner has already raised more than $3,000 for this event.
"It's intense," Koestner said. "You don't know how painful it's going to be until you do it. It's a very close-knit community among those who do the Super Plunge because they do it year after year. We start to fundraise in early October, and we antagonize each other trying to see who can raise the most."
Koestner said the water is 35-38 degrees when they do the plunge.
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"Last year it rained, and right now the forecast for the 23rd is rain," Koestner said. "That rain just makes the conditions even worse."
Koestner plans to continue to plunge for as long as he can. He said Department of Corrections employees see a lot of bad things in their jobs, and this is a good way to give back after dealing with stressful situations.
"We get the joy in our heart by helping other people," Koestner said. "My second year, there was a Special Olympics athlete who wanted to jump, and he was in a wheelchair. So a couple of the other plungers picked that young man up and carried him into the water with them. I'll never forget that.
"These athletes treat us like we're royalty, but we're nobody compared to them. The feeling the athletes give you is what it's all about."