(STILLWATER, Oklahoma, March 7, 2022) — Mike Boynton might be used to the cold growing up on the East Coast, but the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball coach was shivering Monday after getting dunked in freezing water.
“I don’t go swimming in the cold, that is for sure,” said Boynton, a native of Brooklyn, New York.
Boynton made an exception Monday, as he and two dozen fellow OSU coaches, players and administrators stepped into the dunk tank as part of the first Chilly Cowboy — a fundraiser for Special Olympics Oklahoma.
OSU student-athlete Chelsea Alexander and First Cowboy Darren Shrum came up with the idea for the event about three months ago. They were hopeful that the event could make a difference, but even they could not have imagined the support they would get.
Alexander, an outfielder on the Cowgirl softball team, was unable to attend the Polar Plunge events Special Olympics Oklahoma put on each year because they coincided with away games. So she decided to come up with her own.
“The Special Olympics community is really strong here in Stillwater,” Alexander said. “It was really a way to help raise money for Special Olympics [Oklahoma] and get these kids more opportunities, and the response to it was incredible. Basically, you take a dip in this smaller-than-I-anticipated dunk tank and it is going to be cold, which is the point. It will be wet and it is freezing for a reason.”
Alexander’s younger brother, Caden, has Down syndrome and was one of the four Special Olympic athletes who had the honor of working the dunk tank, along with Charlie Dickey Jr., Brian Fitch and Matt Sitton.
“We found out two weeks after Caden was born that he had Down syndrome,” Alexander said. “It changes your perception on life. It changes your outlook when you have somebody with a disability close to your heart and that is really what I credit it to.”
The fundraiser began with a $10,000 goal, with more and more prominent OSU personalities set to be dunked as money was raised. The highest bar set was to get Boynton, football coach Mike Gundy and President Kayse Shrum to participate.
The Chilly Cowboy more than doubled that goal, with $21,000 raised by Monday. Darren Shrum said once the proceeds are added from the auction that took place Saturday, the event will have raised more than $32,000 for Special Olympics.
“As usual, the Cowboy family always comes together and supports things that are worthy,” Darren Shrum said. “Special Olympics is something that is near and dear to our hearts. The whole special needs community is something that we are really close to. We want to take care of them and let them have the best possible experience. It is just one more thing that the OSU Cowboy family comes together and takes care of.”
More than 100 people gathered near OSU’s Student Union with temperatures in the mid-30s to watch the biggest names on campus go into the water.
The list consisted of Boynton, Gundy, the Shrums, Alexander, Athletic Director Chad Weiberg, softball coach Kenny Gajewski, women’s tennis coach Chris Young, equestrian coach Larry Sanchez, soccer coach Colin Carmichael, along with representatives of OSU’s wrestling, men’s golf, spirit and rodeo teams experiencing the frigid waters.
“Obviously it is a great deal to raise money for Special Olympics,” Boynton said. “Chelsea Alexander obviously spearheaded this and I am cool, it was a great event, but she doesn’t get to pick the dates of anything anymore. Because if I get to pick the dates, we are doing this in May, June or July. Maybe even in August.”
Dr. Shrum had initially thought of wearing a wetsuit, but decided to go along with everyone else and wear shorts and a T-shirt.
“Thank you all for being here in the cold to support all of us as we jump in,” Shrum said to the crowd. “It is really a great cause. It is probably the only reason you would get me to jump in the cold. I am glad you all are here to keep me motivated to jump in. I love that our student-athletes want to support Special Olympic athletes.”
Weiberg said it was a great fundraiser that he hopes to see for many years to come. With Stillwater hosting Special Olympics Oklahoma every May, OSU’s involvement is crucial, he said.
“I just think it is great that Chelsea had this passion and this idea and wanted to do this,” Weiberg said. “I am really impressed and appreciative of her leadership and the way the student athletes and coaches got behind it. I think it was great. Obviously Darren and Dr. Shrum, that is what this is all about — using the platform that they have to do good with it.”