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  • When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.
    Photo Provided
    When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.
  • When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.
    Photo Provided
    When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.
  • When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.
    Photo Provided
    When Special Olympics athletes participate in Polar Bear Plunge, their supporters gain a better sense of who they are supporting with their fundraising efforts.

Fundraising, Awareness And Solidarity: How The Plunge Furthers The Mission Of Special Olympics Maryland

Dylan Roche
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January 12, 2018

You might be thinking, “I could never do the Polar Bear Plunge — the water’s way too cold!”

But before you come up with excuses, take a minute and remember the beneficiary of this bold stunt that 10,000 people undertake each year — and, more importantly, reflect on how your participation can show support for an important cause. Over its 21-year history, Polar Bear Plunge has raised more than $30 million for its designated charity, Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD), which provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities.

“These athletes might not have the same opportunities others had growing up,” explained Jason Schriml, vice president of communications with SOMD. “The appeal of Special Olympics Maryland is that our athletes can compete in sports and show their skills in a society that values sports and talks about sports so much.”

Funds generated by Plunge over the years have helped SOMD add new sports to its offerings and create an interscholastic program with varsity teams at local schools. “There’s a direct correlation between the money raised there that goes back into our programming for the remainder of the year,” Schriml said.

In providing such opportunities, Special Olympics Maryland aims to help its athletes develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Another important aspect of Plunge — perhaps just as important as the money raised — is the show of support and the awareness that the event creates. Many SOMD athletes attend the Plunge, and their presence has helped participants understand just what an impact Special Olympics has.

“The Plunge creates awareness, especially in recent years when we’ve had athlete leaders come out and talk to individuals at the Plunge … and give a face to a cause,” Schriml said. “People [do the Plunge] because they identify with what Special Olympics is, but we thought we could deepen that understanding by having our athletes come out and talk about it or thank people for their participation.”

People who want to learn more about Special Olympics Maryland can visit www.somd.org — or better yet, take part in Polar Bear Plunge on January 28. The thought of that cold water might be a little bit daunting, but as the Special Olympics athletes’ oath states, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

And when you’re plunging, the only way you cannot win is if you opt not to do it at all.

 

The Values Of Special Olympics Maryland

The following six values guide all decisions and actions taken by staff, volunteers and athletes.

Community: We attempt to connect our athletes with their local community as much as possible. We use community facilities; we generate local publicity, and we portray the athletes and their families as local heroes. Connections and bridges are formed.

Friendships: We encourage friendships among athletes and families throughout Special Olympics. We also encourage friendships with athletes without disabilities through their commonality of sport. The goal is friendships for life.

Integrity: Athletes develop integrity by doing the “right thing.”

Opportunity: All Special Olympics stakeholders are given the opportunity to excel.

Quality: We value quality in all we do.

Sportsmanship: We follow the rules of the game by demonstrating good sportsmanship and fairness for all.


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