Shortly after the chimes struck noon Tuesday at Main Hall, a group of brave fundraisers stripped out of their winter wear, faced a crowd clad in parkas and gloves, and took a deep breath.
Below them sat a pool of shimmering water, chilling rapidly in Missoula’s 16-degree temperatures.
“I might be able to buy my way out of going in,” University of Montana head football coach Mick Delaney said while giving the pool a sidelong glance.
To buy his way out, Delaney would have to emerge from the fundraising campaign as the top earner. When the count was complete, however, the coach was in second place at $160 – not enough to stay dry.
“I’ve been told not to get sick,” he said.
The event was the inaugural Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association’s Coldwater Grizzly Dip.
It gave the student group a jump on meeting its $10,000 fundraising goal for the 46th annual Kyi-Yo Pow Wow, and its effort to provide free admission for area schoolchildren.
“It’s one of the oldest and largest student-led powwows in the nation,” said Trail Bundy, a member of the fundraising team and a freshman studying sociology. “The powwow evolves each year. It’s completely different.”
Sociology professor Dusten Hollist raised $85, making him first in line for the frigid plunge. He vanished into a tepee erected nearby and emerged in something of a cape.
Hollist climbed the rungs of the pool’s ladder and waited for the countdown to commence. When it did, he dove like a superhero into the water, sending waves cascading over the edge.
Delaney pulled off his shoes and stood barefoot in the snow. His wife cautioned him against falling ill, noting Saturday’s game between the Grizzlies and Coastal Carolina in the second round of the Football Championship Series playoffs.
“I’m never nervous,” Delaney said – not about the game, but about the water.
On a serious note, Delaney added, “This is for a great cause for them to do their deal in the spring. Any time you can help with something like that, it’s worthwhile.”
Delaney made the humble climb up the ladder before falling backward into the water. Never in a rush, he climbed slowly from the pool and proceeded to dress, showing no signs of the chill.
By being the top fundraiser with $855, Fredricka Hunter, director of American Indian Student Services, successfully bought her way out of the contest.
But in the spirit of competition, she challenged the crowd to pony up $100 more. The offerings came fast and furious, but then stalled at $81. Delaney pulled $20 from his wallet for the final push over the $100 mark.
After her plunge, Hunter shivered under a blanket, but noted summer temperatures in St. Mary Lake weren’t any better.
“I know the challenges the students encounter raising funds,” Hunter said. “It takes away from their academic success. Doing something like this is exciting, and they’re ahead of the game this year. Plus, this brings people together.”
The Kyi-Yo Pow Wow is planned for April 18-19 at the Adams Center on the UM campus.