A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gena Bigler: Sometimes giving back means donning green skin, a helmet and a pink tutu

Not much gets your attention like an old friend painted green wearing a Viking helmet and a tutu. It was a pink sparkly tutu that contrasted nicely with the Hulk green of his exposed skin.
Why was this middle-aged professional decked out in such outrageous attire? For a much more respectable reason than you might have guessed. He was raising money for the Special Olympics.
Nathan White raised $1,700 for the Special Olympics. He offered to humiliate himself by letting his friends and donors choose his costume. Last year, they insisted on a Cupid costume and not wanting to disappoint, Nathan complied. This year, when they met his initial goal of $750, he agreed to paint himself green.

(Photo by Joel Eckman)

(Photo by Joel Eckman)

Upping the anté, he offered to add a tutu if his friends would come up with $1,000, which they quickly did, and one dedicated donor made the sparkly tutu for the occasion. The Hulk mythos doesn’t include any Viking history, but fun and donors demanded a horned Viking helmet to complete the spectacle. The helmet threshold was met at $1,500 and donors went above and beyond by finishing at $1,700, the second highest amount raised by an individual.
When asked why he was willing to dive into frigid water in 30-degree weather wearing a tutu, he said, “I am at a time in my life when I am considering giving back and we have a responsibility to give back if we can. There is no partisan bickering about this cause; this is something everybody can support and it makes a huge difference in the games.”
He was also quick to point out that he wasn’t alone and that there are plenty of people willing to don outrageous costumes in the name of a worthy cause. He wasn’t even the only bearded tutu wearer. A beard club from Madison County also wore the frilly skirts. Nathan expressed gratitude as well to the friends who weren’t able to donate financially, but who supported his efforts to raise funds. Not everyone can donate, but everyone can help, he said.
An archaeologist by trade, Nathan is no stranger to good causes. A polar bear with a warm heart, years ago he worked at a camp for the visually impaired in Northern Vermont and he currently coordinates volunteers for the Wounded Warrior Project. I would like to thank Nathan for his outlandish costuming. It caused me to pause and learn more about what he was doing and what the Special Olympics does for Kentuckians.
The motto of Special Olympics is one everyone could benefit from adopting: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. There are a lot of brave athletes competing in the Special Olympics. The 6,600 athletes train and compete year-round.
Across the state, there were six Polar Bear Plunges with 2,800 jumpers who raised over $685,000 for the Special Olympics. It was Lexington’s 15th year of hosting a plunge and Lexington jumpers raised over $83,000.
Where does that money go? Every penny stays in Kentucky. The next big event will be at Eastern Kentucky University as it hosts the Summer Games. The Games will run June 6-9 and will include five events – bocce, flag football, aquatics, track and field and gymnastics. If you would like to give back and volunteer to help with the Summer Games, contact Justin Harville at jharville@soky.org.

Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at lgbigler@gmail.com.


Click here to read more columns from Gena Bigler.

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