A Polar Plunge for Grandma


Caitlin and Hannah Zenisek adored their grandmother. They describe her as an angel on earth who would do anything to help others. It’s this kind of love admiration that recently drove these young women to jump in the lake on a bone-chilling December day in Minnesota. “It was the day after Christmas, and our goal was to stay in the water for three minutes,” says Caitlin. “The temperature was 23 degrees with a 16-degree wind chill.” 

Why did Caitlin and Hannah take the polar plunge? 

The story begins with the dedication of their grandma, Helen Weides, who raised thousands of dollars for Our Lady of Peace Hospice over five decades of volunteer service. “We were lucky to grow up with a role model like her. Everything she did was for the well-being and safety of others,” says Caitlin. “She was so loved for her generosity and kind heart. If she could raise money for OLP for over 50 years, we can jump in the lake to raise some money for the cause near and dear to her.” 

From the time they were little girls, Caitlin and Hannah grew up volunteering alongside their grandma at OLP. They attended Annunciation School and helped her serve up and clean up for the annual fundraising dinner for OLP at Annunciation Church. Missing grandma over the Christmas holiday, they were talking about her while walking around Lake Harriet when they spotted a group of girls going into the water. Caitlin said, “I do ice baths and ice plunges as part of my wellness routine, so I wondered if I could do this. I couldn’t come home from LA for the fundraising dinner this year, so I wanted to do something else to raise money for OLP.” Caitlin then convinced her sister take the plunge too. 

Raising the funds 

Hannah and Caitlin posted their plans on Instagram, with a link to Venmo. They raised $500 overnight, so they posted again to raise a total of $1,200. “We were choked up over the response,” says Hannah. Family, friends, and acquaintances felt compelled to donate. Some donations were between $1-$5, several were $100 and there were a couple $200 donations.” 

Plunge Day  

Apprehension surrounded Caitlin and Hannah when they woke to freezing temperatures on December 26th, but they took a deep breath and headed to Lake Harriet, fueled by the memory of Grandma Helen, their inspiration. You may be surprised to know there is an area of the lake that is cut out for polar plunges because they are known to be good for your circulation.   

Hand and hand, the sisters ran into the water with a rush of adrenaline, quickly becoming numb and breathless. Mom and dad filmed the plunge from two angles, and timed the sisters in the water, signaling the end of three minutes. Due to windy conditions, their parents also chased clothes, towels, mittens, and hats down the beach. Caitlin says, “Mom frantically gave us clothes and got us into the car when we were done.”  

Grandma wouldn’t have believed it  

According to Caitlin, “Grandma Helen would have said, “What are you two doing!’ She left big shoes to fill, and we want to do our part to carry on her legacy. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it an annual thing for those who can’t volunteer at the Annunciation dinner. In the meantime, check out our video!”