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Kevin Know-Better-Next-Time

Kevin Know-Better-Next-Time

More than 300 plunge into icy Lake Zorinsky

Icy lake water does not discriminate.

It chills teenage girls and buff young dudes. It bites blond babes and middle-aged men.

And Zorinsky Lake showed no mercy to anyone not wearing a wet suit Saturday during the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

Kevin Young of Yutan, Neb., was taking photographs of Polar Bear Plunge participants when the ice broke and he took his own plunge into Zorinsky Lake in Omaha on Saturday. A member of the Yutan rescue diving team helped fish him out, while Young tried to keep his camera dry.

The event, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Nebraska, attracted more than 300 participants and generated at least $80,000, said Katie Bowser, development director for the organization.

The participants, who must raise at least $50 apiece for Special Olympics, rushed in groups down a grassy ramp and plunged into Zorinsky Lake. Then they waded, ran or swam to a bikini-clad mannequin 20 feet from the shore, scrambled out and hustled to change clothes in nearby tents.

Many participants wore costumes. Mike Conrad of Fort Calhoun, Neb., found a plastic knight outfit in a costume shop. He is state deputy of the Nebraska Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization of the Catholic Church.

"They're a little concerned about it, but I told them Dad would be fine," Conrad said of two of his kids, Christa and Seth, who stood beside him before the plunge.

"Not me," responded Christa, his 13-year-old daughter.

Bowser said the water temperature was about 28 degrees, even though the air temperature on the sunny, windy day approached 50 degrees at the time of the plunge. The Yutan, Neb., rescue diving team carved a large hole in the ice.

Some participants wore sport coats and ties, shower caps and robes, jail jumpsuits, evening gowns, reindeer antlers and Santa hats.

Daisy Curtis, of the Omaha Roller Girls roller derby team, wore a black mini-skirt and red tank top. "Not feeling so tough out here right now, though," Curtis said before her plunge.

Several members of the Yutan diving team hung around the mannequin to make sure everyone emerged from the shallow water. A photographer somehow stationed himself behind them on the lake, then provided added entertainment when he dropped through the ice. The Yutan group pulled him out.

Asked who the photographer was, Butch Juedes of the rescue team said: "Kevin Know-Better-Next-Time." The photographer identified himself as Kevin Young.

Marla Westphalen and Chad Schoening, both of Council Bluffs, wore ghoulish wedding outfits. Westphalen carried a sign: "Til Death Do Us Part."

The two said they are, in fact, engaged to marry each other next October. Schoening showed so much enthusiasm for the plunge that he dived right past the mannequin.

Standing in the icy water, Westphalen pointed to the mannequin, indicating that he should touch it. Schoening responded by tackling her at the ankles, submerging her in the lake again.

"It felt good," Schoening said later of the plunge. "Oh, yeah."

"Loser," Westphalen said. "I'm not marryin' him."

• Contact the writer: 402-444-1123, rick.ruggles@owh.com