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Submitted Special Olympics New York `Polar Plunge` image.
Submitted Special Olympics New York "Polar Plunge" image.

Special Olympics New York hosts 'Polar Plunge' series


Mon, Dec 4th 2023 11:00 am

Over the weekend, Special Olympics New York hosted a “Polar Plunge” series, with proceeds benefitting the local athletes of Special Olympics New York. A total of 1,500 participants plunged into the chilly waters of Lake Erie at Woodlawn Beach State Park.

The “Polar Plunge” series, presented by Towne Automotive Group, raised over $540,000 for this two-day event from both participants fundraising and generous sponsors. This plunge has become the largest in New York, out of the 16 that Special Olympics NY hosts, with the highest amount raised.

On Friday, 21 local high schools raised a record $150,000 in the “Cool School Polar Plunge.” Schools from Fillmore Central to Frontier took part in the event with over 700 students, teachers and administrators taking the plunge.

Top fundraising schools include Iroquois High School with $30,000 and East Aurora High School with $23,000. Two students were presented with a $1,000 scholarship from Special Olympics NY and First Student for being top fundraisers: Ethan Spino and Bradley Kingston of Iroquois High School, who each raised over $4,000. In addition, two $500 scholarships were also raffled off: Alex Parlato of Williamsville and Chris Ginestre from Iroquois were the recipients.

Schools that participated included Amherst, Cheektowaga, Catt-Little Valley, Fredonia, East Aurora, Fillmore Central, Frontier, Grand Island, Holland Central, International Prep, Iroquois, Lake Shore, Niagara Wheatfield, North Tonawanda, Orchard Park, Pembroke, Silver Creek, St. Francis, St. Joes, Starpoint, Dunkirk, West Seneca and Williamsville.

A press release noted, “The ‘Cool School Polar Plunge’ started when two Unified Schools wanted to create their own plunge for Special Olympics NY. This idea has spread throughout NYS, where 10 ‘Polar Plunges’ now host a ‘Cool School’ challenge. The winner of the ‘Cool School’ challenge receives a trophy and ultimate bragging rights.

“Over 250 schools offer Unified programming in their school. Funds raised through the ‘Cool School’ challenge allow Special Olympics NY to continue the mission of inclusion and furthering Unified programming into the community.”

On Saturday, the traditional Buffalo “Polar Plunge” had over 800 attendees at Woodlawn Beach State Park, helping to push the record-breaking monies past $500,000 to support over 3,000 local Special Olympics NY athletes and Unified Partners in Western New York.

" ‘Polar Plunges’ are some of the most valuable fundraisers we host each year," Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman SAID. "They're an excellent opportunity for people from all over the community to come together and support our athletes."

More About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 42,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with over 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. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

Another event hosted by Special Olympics New York is the “Buffalo Bowl” at Highmark Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. This is a 6-on-6 flag football tournament. In 2023, 60 teams competed in amateur, co-ed, first responders, middle school, high school, unified and pro divisions. This event is scheduled for Saturday, June 8, 2024. For more information or to register, visit www.BuffaloBowl.org.

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