Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Polar Plunge: Supporting Special Olympians

cZ9QdLUrJust when you think its time to pack away the swim gear and pull out the skis, its time for the annual Polar Plunge benefiting the Special Olympics. I am not one to actually take the required dip, but hold vigorously to my role as spectator when it comes to braving any Adirondack water in November.

From the Finger Lakes to Lake Champlain and Lake George to Staten Island there are 14 Polar Plunge events scheduled with ones in Plattsburgh and Lake George on November 16. Lake George’s Polar Plunge will kick off from Shepard’s Park while the Plattsburgh participants will brave a chilly Lake Champlain from City Beach.

According to Special Olympics Development Specialist Erin McCartan this is the seventh year of their Lake George plunge and the fourth for their Plattsburgh event. Partnering with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, the Polar Plunges are one their biggest fundraiser throughout the year.

“It costs about $400 to support one athlete for one season,” says McCartan. “There are local, regional and away events. The athletes are never charged and there is no age restriction. We have athletes that have been participating for the last 50 years.”

“The Special Olympics is necessary because it helps to teach values and life lessons. Even though the athletes may be matriculated into schools, it’s those life lessons they carry with them,” says McCartan. “It is important to learn how to win, but it is just as important to learn how to lose.”

McCartan states that Special Olympic athletes are five times more likely to hold a job in their community compared to people with intellectual disabilities that do not participate.

There are other ways to help than just taking an icy plunge. McCartan encourages first timers to come to an event and volunteer or even be a fan in the stands.  Registration for the Lake George event starts at 9 am at Duffy’s Tavern while Plattsburgh’s registration is at 10. Both plunges are at noon.

“The Chicken Coop is an option for people to chicken to plunge,” laughs McCartan. “There is a $50 fundraising minimum to be in the heated tent to watch the activity. There are refreshments. Other people can just come and watch. There is always some way to help. At Special Olympics New York we have under 50 full employees but over 3,600 volunteers.”

So perhaps I’ll see you on the beach. Though I will be the one holding hot chocolate and cheering on those people that are helping these very Special Olympians.

Photo of the Lake George Plunging Team Max’s Buddies used with permission. 

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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.

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