Reinhart family takes the icy plunge for Special Olympics

The family that dives together, thrives together in St. Peter Polar Plunge

Staff photos by Gage Cureton 90-year-old Sylvia Reinhart (center) celebrates with family members after they took the plunge into Hallet’s Pond in St. Peter for the 2019 Polar Plunge. Behind her, from left, are Steven Reinhart, 69, Kari Hanson, 43 and Jaime Reinhart, 27. Also plunging was 10-year-old Abby Havemeier.

ST. PETER – Spectators and plungers alike grew silent as the Reinhart family of New Ulm stepped to the edge of the ice at Hallett’s Pond in St. Peter Saturday. It’s not every day a 90-year-old great-great-grandmother takes a jump into an icy pond.

The Reinharts were early in the long line up of plungers both eager and nervous to dive in the waters for the St. Peter Polar Plunge.

Plungers walked out onto the ice, sometimes in elaborate costumes, shivering from the cold and excitement.

They walked out towards the edge of the ice and stared at the ripples created by plungers before them.

Dressed in matching red plaid flannel pants and bomber hats, the Reinharts – five generations ranging in age from 90 to 10 — joined hands and took the plunge into the frigid waters.

Staff photos by Gage Cureton The Reinharts, or Reinhart Five Generations team, jump into the frigid waters of Hallett’s Pond in St. Peter Saturday. While the air temperature was a relatively balmy 38 degrees, the water temperature wasn’t much warmer.

The Reinharts, or Reinhart Five Generations as their team is called, consists of Sylvia Reinhart, 90, Steven Reinhart, 69, Kari Hanson, 43, Jaime Reinhart, 27 and Abby Havemeier, 10.

Sylvia, the eldest of the Reinharts, checked with her doctor before registering for the Polar Plunge. She was cleared to take the plunge, and the Reinharts formed their team.

Sylvia said she wasn’t nervous for the plunge, and that the water wasn’t as bad as she thought. However, she said she probably wouldn’t partake next year.

The Reinharts, and over 300 other plungers, weren’t braving the toe-numbing waters just for the sake of fun and thrills.

The St. Peter Polar Plunge, hosted by Polar Plunge Minnesota, is held to raise funds for Special Olympics Minnesota. Many communities across Minnesota host polar plunges of their own and all funds raised go to over 8,200 athletes across the state to participate in athletic programs.

This year was the 13th of its kind in St. Peter, and donations totaled $57,358 with businesses and individuals from all over southern Minnesota contributing and participating.

Kari said their family raised $659 in donations. She said she was thankful Saturday’s weather was warmer — at a balmy 38 degrees — than earlier in the week; however, the cold waters still managed to chill to the bone.

“It’s a shock when you’re in the water,” she said. “But I’m glad we did it.”

Much to the plungers’ delight, a warming bath awaited them when they exited the pond. Changing tents were also available for participants to change into dry clothes.

New Ulm area organizations also participated in the Polar Plunge. New Ulm Police Department, Courtland Fire Department and Lafayette Fire Department and Ambulance formed their own teams.

Jessica Gieseke of the Lafayette Fire Department collected and donated nearly $3,000 for the Polar Plunge this year. She said it’s her tenth year participating and she’s happy to contribute.

“I grew up working with special needs kids in junior high and high school,” Gieseke said. “I do have some family members that are special needs and I’ve seen their faces light up after events like these.”

Gieseke said she normally raises between $1,500 to $2,000 every year. She looks forward to raising even more funds next year.