Plunge Sunday: Special Olympics Delaware has the perfect match

plunge ted reiver with irv levin

Irv Levin, right, chats with Ted Reiver while canvassing the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk for contributions to the Levin Matching Fund at last year’s Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics.

REHOBOTH BEACH — Irv Levin is a match-maker.
And Special Olympics Delaware is the perfect match for Mr. Levin, his wife Phyllis and their 43-year-old son Jamie – a longtime Special Olympics athlete.
Deeply passionate for organizations like Special Olympics Delaware and Chimes that serve individuals with special needs, Mr. Levin puts his money where his mouth is.
On Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Sunday, Irv Levin is one of the most visible and audible characters on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.
He canvasses the planked boardwalk near the bandstand, hawking donations – any denomination will do, obviously the bigger the better – that Mr. Levin pledges to match dollar for dollar through the Levin Matching fund.

Close friends and colleagues help out at other solicitation points along the boardwalk
“It’s a fun day, as long as it’s not too cold,” he says.
Mr. Levin “guess-timates” the matching fund has probably generated close to a half million dollars since its inception some 10 years ago.
“And I’ll tell you, I’d like to hit the big lottery, the Powerball; Special Olympics wouldn’t have to worry about raising money anymore,” said Mr. Levin.
“The amount of money Irv and Phyllis have generously donated to Special Olympics has helped us not only enhance the program we offer, but also further our reach to people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to be in Special Olympics,” said Ann Grunert, Special Olympics Delaware Executive Director.
The Levin Matching Fund launched with a 10-percent match, and then grew to 50 percent.
“And then we got brave and went to 100 percent,” said Mr. Levin. “You never know; somebody comes along with $5,000 or 10,000, and people say to me, ‘What happens when that happens.’ I say, ‘Well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.’”
Last year, an U.S. Air Force retiree on pension and Social Security checked in with an eye-opening donation.
“He handed us a check. We looked at it after he left and it looked like $500. Then we looked at it again and it was $1,500,” said Mr. Levin. “I called him back and thanked him. This year I sent him a personal letter and he sent me $2,000 this year.”
“You can see the type of people, from all parts that step up,” said Mr. Levin. “We’re shooting for $40,000 this year. I think we might get it.”
In February, 2015, a record 3,325 participants braved 41-degree air temperature and plunged into the 37-degree water, raising a record $780,000 for the 3,700 children and adults who participate in Special Olympics Delaware.
Sunday’s event will mark the 25th Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympic Delaware.

PLUNGE irv, jamie and phyllis levin

Irv and Phyllis Levin with their son Jamie, a Special Olympics athlete whose favorite sport is bowling.

Mr. Levin has been on board for 25 years. The Levin’s son Jamie has been involved with Special Olympics since he was about 8. Bowling is by far his favorite sport.
“Jamie is just a neat kid. He has grown a lot in the last five years, he mellowed down. He loves bowling. When he goes bowling he has so much fun,” said Mr. Levin. “We have to make sure our kids are happy and have the same opportunities that everybody else gets.”
“For Irv and Phyllis, their passion to make a difference is fueled by seeing the value Special Olympics adds to the lives of their son Jamie and his many friends who take part in the program,” said Ms. Grunert. “And what a lot of people don’t realize is that for the Levins, their involvement isn’t a once-a-year endeavor. They are involved as volunteers all year long — as games committee members, coaches, and in many other ways. While their contribution to the plunge can be measured in terms of dollars and cents, their impact on the program as a whole is immeasurable.”
Jon Buzby, Special Olympics Delaware’s Director of Media Relations & Program Innovations, said a fundraising page for online contributions to the Levin Matching Fund can be made by visiting: www.firstgiving.com and searching “Irv Levin 2016.”
“He is the first one that pops up,” said Mr. Buzby.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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