JACKSON TWP. The annual Jackson Local Schools Foundation’s (JLSF) Polar Bear Plunge is coming up soon – it’s scheduled for Feb. 8 at Lake Cable.

Jackson Local Schools Board of Education President Thomas Winkhart has taken the icy cold plunge for the past two years to help raise money for the Jackson Local Schools Foundation. As in past years, Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto will be making the jump. Winkhart usually jumps with DiLoreto and JLSF President Jim Camp.

This year is a bit different. During the January board of education meeting, Jackson High School senior Jacob Stout told the board he was working on a senior capstone project to raise money for a Chair of Honor to be put in the bleachers of the football stadium. There will be a plaque beside the chair with a brief statement honoring veterans. Stout needs to raise $500 for the project.

“I’m planning to have the chair installed by the end of the school year, and dedicated next year at the first home football game,” Stout wrote in an email. “The Chair of Honor is a stadium chair similar to the ones found in the Cleveland Indians stadium, but it is black and grey and has a POW logo on the seat back.”

Winkhart offered to help raise whatever Stout doesn’t raise for the chair if Stout takes Winkhart’s place at the jump.

“I will pay whatever he does not raise (for jumping) up to his goal of $450/$500,” Winkhart wrote. “I will not be taking the plunge if he accepts the challenge. I am planning to attend and cheer everybody on. I thought this would be a nice way to support his cause and have an excuse this year to get out of jumping into that really cold water.

“When I read about Jacob’s Project in our School Board packet, I was moved to see him accomplish it. It’s a wonderful effort and great cause. Jacob’s girlfriend is my paralegal’s daughter, so I have heard great things about Jacob for quite some time.”

Originally, Stout considered doing a flag retirement ceremony as his senior capstone project. He was planning to collect flags throughout the community and holding a ceremony to retire them with other Jackson Academy of Global Studies (JAGS) members.

“Then, Ms. Stone, the head of JAGS, presented me the idea of a memorial for veterans, POWs, and service members MIA in Robert Fife Stadium,” Stout wrote. “I thought this was a great idea and an honorable way to create a permanent memorial for veterans in Jackson. After researching what kind of memorials I could create, I found the Chair of Honor.”

This is his first year participating and he’s excited to be a part of the event. He wrote he has driven by the Polar Bear Plunge in the past was amazed at the turnout. He has a plan for preparing to jump into the frigid water.

“I’m going to keep a mug full of hot coffee with me and my winter coat with me for after the plunge. I’ll be jumping with Mr. DiLoreto and a group of friends who I’ve convinced jumping into a freezing cold lake is a fun idea. I’m excited to take the plunge, it’s a great way to show support for the Jackson community and it will make my capstone project possible,” Stout wrote.

He thanks the school board and his teachers Mr. Knopick and Mr. Michel for helping with his capstone project and for encouraging him and giving him confidence to complete the project.

Winkhart agrees about the event becoming such a community effort and said the increase in the number of jumpers each year is proof of community support.

“The Polar Bear Plunge is a great community event that continues to grow in the number of jumpers and the money and awareness raised for our School Foundation and the individual charities and causes.  It is wonderful to have so many people supporting this annual event and our School District.  We are Polar Bears – we should be jumping in the cold water in February,” Winkhart wrote.

The Jackson Local Schools Foundation (JLSF) is an independent organization of local volunteers that works to promote educational achievement, encourage instructional innovation and create excitement about learning. The JLSF is a non-profit, charitable organization that seeks tax-deductible donations from citizens, businesses and organizations to further the excellence in Jackson Local Schools.

There are a number of other non-profit charities that participate each year and the JLSF splits the proceeds with the local charities.