If you’ve spent time listening to WRJO you’ve heard Mike Wolf, Heartland Corporate Director of Programming and on-air host. What started 18 years ago as an idea at a fish fry grew into an annual Plunge that has raised a half million dollars since that first icy dive.
“Former owners of the original plunge location, George and Lois Ruediger, my wife Wendi and myself were sitting down to a fish fry,” Mike explained. “We started talking about radio station events and activities, when George and Lois asked if I had any ideas for an event we could have at the resort to help people enjoy and celebrate Wisconsin Northwoods winters. I suggested a Polar Bear Plunge. We wondered if anyone would show up. They did! We had over 30 people show up the first year and raised over $8000.00. What can’t a fish fry do?”
Realizing in the beginning that the Plunge needed a benefactor, Lois Ruediger suggested Angel On My Shoulder, a charity in St. Germain that was helping the cancer-effected community.
Mike said, “We went with it, not knowing what a difference it would make in all of our lives. We approached Lolly Rose about partnering up and that’s when we started to learn what an amazing organization Angel is, and what an incredibly strong person Lolly is. Being part of the Angel Family is an awesome feeling, knowing how many hundreds of people every year benefit just from one lady’s vision.”
WRJO also conducts a Pledge-a-Thon to work in conjunction with the Plunge and help bring awareness and donations to the effort.
“The Pledge-a-Thon gives us a chance to paint a broader picture of what Angel does for the cancer affected community,” Mike added. “We are able to conduct interviews, and share our personal stories about Camp Angel. It also gives those who would otherwise not be able to make the Plunge a chance to donate to Angel.”
When asked about that cold water, Mike said, “The water is definitely cold, but what I would tell anyone about taking the Plunge is that it takes less then 30 seconds of cold to send a kid to camp for an entire weekend.”
There was some speculation at the last Plunge that it might be the final one, having reached the half million dollar donation mark, to which Mike responded, “Is cancer gone? Then we can’t give up on those kids. We’ve had members of our Plunge staff lose loved ones to cancer that brought them to Angel, and we’ve lost Plunge staff members to cancer in the last few years. Not only do we continue for the kids but we also continue in their honor.”
Mike said the benefit of the Plunge, Pledge-a-Thon, time and effort that goes into this event are more than worth it.
“I go to camp and see the kids just hanging out having fun, being kids,” he said. “Something that because of the effects of cancer on their families they are not able to do on a daily basis. Seeing them making new friends and learning they are not alone in their situation is priceless.”
“A half a million dollars!,” Mike said in closing. “Let that sink in for a few seconds. Every day women, men, kids, and even some crazy radio DJ’s have taken the plunge and raised an incredible amount of money. No corporate sponsorship, just everyday people with one goal in mind. Just get those kids to camp. Everyone involved in the Plunge, from the organization, to set-up or take down, as well as the plungers, are what Angel On My Shoulder is all about, and being proud members of the Angel Family.”