I’ve wanted to volunteer with the Special Olympics for a long time now. There’s something about the joyous faces of those giving their all in a sporting event, having the opportunity to compete like any other, that is just so enormously heartwarming.
The Special Olympics, as we all know, was started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver back in the 1960s. What began as a day camp in her home now has a chapter in every state and 140 countries worldwide and serves over one million athletes.
The athletes begin with individual sports training in one of 15 different sports opportunities such as tennis, gymnastics or golf, and advance to local competition, then regional and program level championships. This training and competition enables those with developmental disabilities to demonstrate their capability for achievement. For athletes with severe disabilities, there are special programs that emphasize training and involvement rather than competition.
Every two years, alternating between summer and winter games, athletes gather from around the world to showcase their skills in intense competition and inspiring performances. These World Games draw thousands of participants, from the athletes themselves, friends and family, journalists, spectators, and event officials to the ten of thousands of volunteers that make it all happen.
The Northern California chapter provides sports training and competition year-round for over 13,000 adults and children in 47 counties. All of the training and competitions are provided at no cost to the athletes, so the chapter depends solely on donations and fundraising activities. This particular fundraiser sounds like so much fun, I just had to pass it along.
Polar Plunge 2010 Benefit for the Special Olympics Northern California
Saturday, February 27, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
West Crissy Field, the Presidio
You may have guessed that it involves water and the bay – and being cold, because wetsuits are not allowed! But it’s only a plunge, not a swim, so if you’re a brave soul with a warm heart, you can participate as an individual or join a team. Costumes are encouraged (think Elvis, a caped crusader, or a box of Wheaties) with several prizes awarded to the funniest and other categories. Top fundraisers receive prizes as well – raise just a minimum of $100, and a cool Polar Bear Plunge hoodie is yours along with free admission to the post-plunge party at Sports Basement.
If just the thought of plunging in frigid water gives you goose bumps, you can still participate, with a little, albeit fun, stigma attached. You can join the Chicken Coop team, but you’ll have to wear a sticker that says, “I’m a chicken and proud of it” – a small disgrace for staying warm and dry onshore, cheering on the braver, colder, wetter souls, who will return to poke fun at you through their chattering teeth for being a chicken (and of course, chickens have no teeth).
All you need to do is register online at www.sonc.org/polarplunge and start collecting pledges from friends, family and co-workers to support your efforts for the Special Olympics.
So here’s my chance to take the plunge. Although I’ll probably be a chicken, it’s all in good fun and all for a good cause. I hope you’ll consider plunging as well.