By Isabelle Desilier
Over 200 participants ran into the cold waters of the Kahuna Wave Pool Saturday, April 6th at Splish Splash, Calverton for the third annual Polar Plunge.
A non-profit organization, Polar Plunge reached its goal of $36,000 for the Special Olympics athletes to compete in the New York June 14-15th. Participants from all over Long Island formed teams or acted independently, each competing to raise the most amount of donations.
“We have 21 teams and several participants,” Alexis Dawson, this year’s organizer of the Polar Plunge, said. “We have a goal of $36,000, and we’re definitely going to reach that.”
As of today, the Polar Plunge raised $36,466 for their 66,835 athletes.
The Frozen Waves, a team of young girls and boys ages 8-10, won first place, with $8,618 raised. The Southampton Town Policeman Benevolent Association (PBA) came in second with $5,120. The highest funded diver was Paul Ferrera at $3,060.
“We’re raising a lot of money today,” Dan Dooley, the Polar Plunge Polar Bear Mascot, said. “It’s going toward a good cause. We’re trying to help the children and raise awareness.”
The event was two hours long, starting at 10 am until the last divers finished their run after 11:45. The participants were then invited to run in one last time.
The entire event was DJ’ed by 101.7 the Beach radio station and had emergency personnel on standby provided by the Riverhead and Southampton PBA, as well as emergency medical technicians (EMT).
“It’s a great cause, and if we can get out and volunteer- we’ll do what we can,” Caroline Ruberto, an EMT from Wading River, said.
The plunge funds the olympians, their training, gear and transportation for the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is a series of competitions held every year in different places around the world and the US that are for persons with a mental and developmental disability that is funded by the government.
The cost of sponsoring one athlete per season is $400.
“The people who put the money forward,” Thomas Timmons, Special Olympic athlete, said. “I really feel blessed and happy for what these people do for us.”
The athletes will compete in 22 different sports, ranging from basketball to swimming to bowling.
Timmons, an athlete since 2004, will be participating in the basketball, bowling, track and softball games.
This event was one of several hosted this year in hopes of raising funds for the different Special Olympic events being held nationally. New Jersey held a plunge in February raising over $2 million for their 25,000 athletes. The Chicago plunge, held March 3rd, is still $200,000 short of their $2 million goal.
Although, the Polar Plunge focuses on sponsoring athletes for the Olympic games, they also provide different opportunities and experiences.
“I was one of the four athlete that dropped the puck for an Islander and Rangers’ game,” Timmons said. “I was able to sing the national anthem at numerous events and Madison Square Garden.”
With the Splish Splash Polar Plunge a success, the organization will be focusing their attention to continuing to fundraise for their Oyster Bay, South Hampstead and Sacket Harbor plunges that took place in February and March.