Residents from the town of Oyster Bay participated in their fourth annual Polar Plunge fundraising over 65 thousand dollars on March 18 for the athletes of Special Olympics New York.
Plungers who raised over $150 also received an official Polar Plunge sweatshirt to promote awareness of people living with intellectual disabilities in New York.
Special Olympics New York has over 67 thousand athletes and offers free year-round training and competitions in 22 Olympic-style sports. The non-profit organization relies primarily on donations to offset the $400 athlete training and participation fee according to the director of development in the Long Island region, Jennifer Cantone.
“Events like these help make sure that our special athletes continue to have a chance to compete,” Rose Marie Walker, Nassau County Legislator, said. “When you see their warm smiles and excitement at the games, you just can’t help but be happy that you played a part in making it happen.”
For some of the 400 Oyster Bay participants, this plunge wasn’t the first time they dove into 37 degree Fahrenheit water in support of the Special Olympics.
“We feel very blessed that we have had this experience over the past three years,” Dr. Christian Miller of Shulman and Miller Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics said.
“It all started in 2015,” Miller said. “My son Nicholas who was eight at the time came home from school and said to my wife and I that he wanted to take part in the polar plunge”. Miller’s son Nicholas raised over three thousand dollars in 2015 in honor of his cousin, Justin Miller, who has cerebral palsy. The following year in 2016 they raised over six thousand dollars.
“This was Justin’s year to be number one and he led it (the team) this year,” Miller said.
Out of 66 teams, Shulman & Miller Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics raised the most money topping 10 thousand dollars for the Polar Plunge.
Other participants joined the Polar Plunge at Tobay Beach for the experience as well as the cause.
Waiting to run into the freezing water was the worst part, Taylor Milano said. “Once you went in it wasn’t that bad, I would do it again it was fun,” Milano said. Although Milano does not personally know any special Olympic athletes she said it was important to give back to the community.
Special need athletes who participate in multiple competitive events on Long Island, can qualify for the Olympics Cantone said. Siena College, located in Albany N.Y, will be hosting the 2017 and 2018 Special Olympic NY Summer Games. The Special Olympic World Winter Games in Austria will continue until March 25.