They were freezin' for a reason on Saturday. Dozens of brave souls decided to take the plunge and jump into the Atlantic to raise money to support Special Olympics NY.
On Saturday, March 20, with big smiles and joy to keep their spirits warm, plungers headed to Beach 94th Street to run into the ocean for a chilly dip on the first day of spring. But the motivation behind it made it easy. After all, those who plunged were raising funds to help keep Special Olympics programs across the state doing the great work that they do.
Covid couldn’t stop this event from being a success. Usually, the event is held in Riis Park, but this year the location was changed to Beach 94th Street. With Covid-19 safety in mind, each plunger was allotted a time slot sometime between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, so that groups could maintain social distancing. Participants were also required to wear masks and sanitizing stations were on site. Some could also opt to participate in a virtual plunge by filming themselves plunging somewhere besides Beach 94th Street.
Each group and individual that took the plunge put in hard work to raise money for the event. According to the organizers, the plunge reached its goal of raising $35,000. The top team was Rockaway’s own St. Camillus Special Olympics Phelan Cold group, which raised more than $9,000 alone. Courts for Mary Quinn was the second biggest fundraising group with over $8,000 and the Cross Island Plungers followed close behind raising more than $7,800.
The top individual fundraiser was Ray Otton, who volunteers for St. Camillus Special Olympics. Otton raised more than $4,000. In addition to donations from family and friends, Elizabeth Hanna of Rockaway Businesses Need You helped boost Otton’s donations by $1,000 by running raffles leading up to the event. Otton, Patrick Trainor and the St. Camillus group took the plunge in memory of the late Richard Connor, a beloved participant in the group who died in September.
According to the plunge fundraising site, in second place was Jonathan Beiner, who raised around $2,400, and third was Thomas Quinn who raised just under $2,400. Anyone who raised more than $150 went home with the coveted 2021 Polar Plunge sweatshirt.
The spirit of the plunge was made extra special with groups showing up in costume to cheer plungers, on including Darth Vader and Storm Troopers, who posed to take photos. The local NYPD 100th Precinct got into the spirit as several officers took the dip and their Youth Coordination Officers and Explorers volunteered their services by taking temperatures of plungers, giving out sweatshirts and even dressing up as the plunge mascot polar bear.
For more information about Special Olympics New York and their programs, check out www.specialolympics-ny.org/
Photos Moe McNicholas, Kristen Supple and the 100th Precinct.
By Katie McFadden
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