Making a splash: Polar Plunge raises more than $50k for Special Olympics

Published 5:06 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Hundreds of brave souls plunged in the icy Atlantic waters on Saturday, March 9, 2024 in support of the North Carolina Special Olympics.

The day was overcast and the rain was spitting, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the Outer Banks Polar Plunge participants, who ran gleefully into the 50-degree ocean.

The event got going at about 11 a.m. with a welcome from 99.1 The Sound’s Lisa Brickhouse. “We are here to raise money for folks who set the bar so high for how to enjoy life,” she told those crowded at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Special Olympics athlete ambassador Bryan Henry, from Wake County, North Carolina, encouraged the crowd in their efforts through his own personal testimony. Henry has participated in Special Olympics in locations as far as Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

“These medals were not given to me,” he said, pointed to several medals around his neck. “I earned them.”

“Whether you’re a first time plunger or an expert, know that you have made a splash in our lives,” Henry said.

After a brief safety introduction, plungers lined up in groups of 50 and charged into the ocean. Madeline Safrit, director of communications for Special Olympics North Carolina, said there were more than 400 people signed up for the event, though a little less than half that actually took the plunge last Saturday.

The donation to plunge was $50 for individuals. Participants were encouraged to share their personal fundraising page with friends, community members and business owners, driving total donations for the 2024 OBX Polar Plunge to a record $52,297.

Among the brave polar plungers was a group of about 15 students from First Fight High School, who came with First Flight E.C. teacher Alyssa Hannon. Hannon even brought two of her E.C. students to participate in the plunge.

“I think it’s a great community builder,” she said. “I think it shows that these athletes are athletes just like everybody else and that they’re capable of doing really hard things – coming out here and just participating in something big like this.”

Special Olympics was started in Chicago in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who believed that “individuals with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activity than many experts believed possible” says the organization’s website. Special Olympics North Carolina began in 1970 with 400 athletes. It has grown to 40,000 participants statewide.

Because athletes are never charged a fee to participate in Special Olympics, the organizations rely on donations, fundraisers and business partnerships to raise money for training facilities, uniforms, awards, equipment, transportation and coaches’ education.

This year’s sponsors include Wawa, Blue Water Grill, SAGA Realty & Construction, Sarah D’Ambra Photography, Atlantic Elevators, Carolina Designs Realty, TowneBank, Shelly OBX Storage, Ocean Atlantic Event Rentals, Outer Banks Sports Club, Super Wings, Atlantic Autism Services and Sugar Creek Restaurant.