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Commentary: Ready to take pants off for charity

When the subject line of an incoming email reads "Take Your Pants Off For Charity!," I'm going to open that email and see what it's all about.

I mean, let's face it, if we can take our pants off in public for a good cause we should go for it. Why not bring back a sophisticated and modest, mostly legal form of streaking to raise a few bucks for a worthy cause?

I'm not sure what town was doing this fundraiser, but at least the headline caught my eye.

This simple electronic subject line got me thinking about other fundraising ideas. We have the more traditional and conservative events around here this time of year, like the always popular fishing derbies. Earlier this month, the Park Rapids American Legion Fishing Derby was another big success and a great event every year.

We've seen the bed races, toilet races, dunking booths, cow pie bingo (and other animal-related games of chance). The online Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral a couple years ago got real annoying real quick but was certainly effective in raising awareness for ALS.

The idea of jumping into a lake in the middle of February in Minnesota is a popular fundraising event, and still very effective. This past weekend the Purple Plunge at the Audrey's Purple Dream "Our Answer to Cancer" is a perfect example of this sub-zero plunging tradition. Throw in a fishing contest and some car racing on ice and that's some good Minnesota fun.

Cars racing on a frozen lake. As a good buddy of mine who is as Minnesota as Minnesota gets, being raised in Lake George said, "It doesn't get any more Minnesota redneck than that."

And we love it.

I saw the "Take Your Pants Off For Charity" email a few days before the Polar Plunge and it stuck with me as I watched these good folks and their classic fish-belly-white Scandinavian skin jump, flip, soar and plunge into the icy waters of 11th Crow Wing Lake.

Of course, I made the comment to one of the veteran organizers maybe I should do the plunge next year and write a first-hand account of the experience. Let's hope he forgets what I said when I was talking tough.

It takes a special soul (maybe a touch of crazy) with a healthy heart of gold to jump through a hole cut in a frozen lake. It's not pretty, but sure is effective as Akeley's Purple Plunge raised over $7,000 in funds gathered by 35 jumpers on Saturday.

So that puts me back here in Park Rapids, thinking about a crazy stunt to raise money. Something to do with dressing up like a loon or a lumberjack, body paint, streaking for a good cause.

I don't know, so I set out on a quest to find the perfect fundraiser for Park Rapids. It has to be unique, appealing, simple (because we don't like to complicate things here), and given we don't see much sun six months out of the year, we better keep our clothes on for this one.

Research. I headed to the public library, brushed up on the Dewey Decimal System and thumbed through the card catalog to pore over books filled with unique fundraising ideas dating back to ancient civilization.

You see, youngsters, this Dewey Decimal System I speak of is a proprietary library classification system first published in the U.S. by Melvil Dewey in 1876. (Thank you, Wikipedia). The classification's notation makes use of three-digit Arabic numerals for main classes, with fractional decimals allowing expansion for further detail.

Huh, what?

Okay, you're right. I didn't do that. I Googled wacky fundraiser ideas.

I found a couple ideas we could probably implement into our Park Rapids area's culture of lakes and loons and loonies and fish.

Number one in the trusty interwebs search pops up as "Explore cross-dressing." This is a Wisconsin-based domestic violence prevention charity that invites men to slip on high heels and literally walk a mile in women's shoes to raise money for domestic violence programs. I'm thinking downtown Park Rapids Water Wars and firefighters in heels.

I saw something on a potluck auction. We love hotdish in these parts, so we host a formal dinner as a fundraiser, but in lieu of charging an entrance fee for guests, everybody brings their prized hotdish to auction off and raise money for a good cause. That can't get too out of hand unless some fancy out-of-stater puts hot sauce in the tater tot hotdish.

More online research led to an adult spelling bee. The word "zany" was used to describe this fundraiser, so it's gotta be good. We host an adult spelling bee, and to make it our own. Maybe we do it on the ice during the fishing derby, after a few beers. As soon as a participant misses a word, into frigid Fish Hook Lake they go. Taking pants off for charity.

How about dressing up like loons and run a race through downtown during a full moon or lunar eclipse? Creepy and fun. Maybe make it a pub crawl.

You never know, pants could come off for charity.

I'm open to suggestions and sponsors.

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