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More than 1,000 individuals, students and sponsors raised a record-setting $450,000 for Special Olympics New York over the weekend by running into the freezing waters of Lake Erie. The 2022 Buffalo Polar Plunge was held Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, at Woodlawn Beach State Park.
“The ‘Inclusion Revolution’ is alive and thriving in Western New York,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the students, families and community members who took part in this year’s Buffalo Polar Plunge, and for all of the people who supported them either by donating or volunteering. Each and every one of the 3,000 Special Olympics athletes we serve locally will benefit from this incredible demonstration of inclusion and generosity.”
2022 Buffalo Polar Plunge images by volunteer photographer Ken Smith/courtesy of Special Olympics New York.
At Friday’s “Cool School Challenge,” student teams raised a total of $140,000, led by East Aurora ($28,000), North Tonawanda ($26,000) and Iroquois ($20,000).
With Saturday’s Polar Plunge, more than $75,000 toward the total came in from corporate event sponsors, led by Towne Automotive Group ($15,000) and First Student ($8,000).
First Student incentivized school participants again this year with awards for top fundraisers and additional scholarships.
Ava Johnston, of North Tonawanda High School, was crowned Polar Queen for raising more than $8,000. Ethan Spino, of Iroquois High School, was crowned Polar King, for raising more than $5,000.
The top fundraising team overall was Team SantaCon ($28,500), led by Brian Mack, who was also the top individual fundraiser ($18,000). The top fundraising by a Special Olympics New York Athlete was Julia Harris ($1,750).
At this event last year, 800 participants raised $290,000.
For additional details or to support this event, visit PolarPlungeNY.org/Buffalo.
About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 31,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally.
For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.