Take the Polar Plunge and Give Back

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Winter fun is just around the corner and, particularly during this time around the holiday season, we often find ourselves in the giving mood. Are you a little bit of a daredevil or the fearless type and interested in a creative way to give back to those in need this holiday? Then the internationally recognized Polar Plunge may be right up your alley.

The Polar Plunge, or sometimes known as the polar bear plunge depending on which region you are in, is usually an annual winter event where the brave run or dive themselves right into frigid bodies of water, while at the same time raising money and awareness for a charitable cause or causes. Most notably in the United States, this particular type of event raises funds for the local Special Olympics chapters.

The plunge into icy waters, predominately held during winter months, is typically held anytime between January to March and can be found at numerous locations throughout the United States. A quick Google search can help you to find an event in numerous US states around you including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and more. Additionally, you can find a Polar Plunge internationally including Antartica, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand as well as others.

Some plunges are obviously more of a challenge due to weather and climate but some standout Polar Plunges include: the oldest is in Boston, Massachusetts dating back to 1904 (pre-charity) and the largest is at the Plungapalooza in Maryland where there are about 12,000 participants who raise an estimated plus $2 million a year for the Special Olympics. While internationally, the meaning of the plunge celebrates the new year with the extreme sport. Fortunately, the Polar Plunge has grown thanks to the fact that it raises funds and awareness for local charities like the Special Olympics, where each dollar raised supports sports training and competitions for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Special Olympics founded in 1968, thanks to the work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, works towards its mission in creating a better, more accepting and inclusive world for all people [1]. The focus is to empower athletes and improve the livelihood of persons with intellectual disabilities. The organization supports over 5 million athletes to live healthier lives by engaging with 1 million coaches and volunteers to assist in year-round Olympic-style sports training and competitions for both the individual or within a team environment. The program ultimately reaches 170 countries worldwide! By providing a venue for these athletes, they benefit from developing physical fitness including learning new skills and abilities, improved confidence and feel all the positive emotions like joy and happiness that coincide with the love of the sport. Additionally, the inclusion of all people in sport helps to broaden awareness and acceptance throughout the world.

With 200 million people with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics strives to reach a goal to include each of them through either sport of other initiatives which also include providing access to quality health care. Since 1997, all Special Olympics athletes receive free health screens from their feet to their teeth. When a person is healthy, they are then provided with more opportunities to access for improved education, employment, and overall enriched lives in society.

To mark all the efforts of the Special Olympics, they celebrated their 50th Anniversary this year with the first-ever Unified Cup presented by Toyota, with the participation of 24 women’s and men’s football (soccer) international teams, a Global Day of Inclusion, an #inclusionrevolution concert, and a light up for inclusion on July 20, 2018 where over 225 landmarks throughout the world were lit up in red in honor of the celebration. Additionally, the Smithsonian highlighted athletes over the past 50 years. This anniversary celebrated the diversity and inclusion within the sport.

Supporting the Special Olympics can not only improve mental well being but also provide an outlet for healthy competition. The international games make for real achievements. This means the sports reach high levels in the world games. The Special Olympics World Games occur every two years, alternating between summer and winter sports, and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

In conclusion, by participating in any one of the numerous Polar Plunge challenges, in either a local state or international country, your funds can directly help people of all intellectual and developmental disabilities. The funds provide year-round sports training with coaches and volunteers, to provide athletes with healthy activity and a normalized sense of inclusion within the sport. Ultimately, the funds provide an all-inclusive mindset to help the athlete, family, volunteers, and community. And by donating to this cause, you provide an athlete a chance to participate in a sport that could bring them to a world game, similar to any athlete’s dream.



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