Polar Bear Plunge: Sea of humanity spurs waves of Special Olympics support

REHOBOTH BEACH – From a sea of humanity came waves of support for children and adults in Delaware with intellectual disabilities.

Fresh from the South Pole via Lewes, Delaware, the Plunging Polar Penguins: Karen Peterman, Patty Catanzariti, Wendy Schadt, Joanne Kempton, Carla Costa and Linda Tobin.

Hours before the Philadelphia Eagles squared off with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, several thousand polar bears braved 37-degree Atlantic Ocean water Sunday in the 27th Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics.

“It was terrible,” said Ron MacArthur, a local newsman/photographer who was enticed to take the plunge by his 7-year-old grand-daughter Jenna.

Kirsten Scher, a Middletown High School junior, was another Plunge rookie encouraged to participate. “All of my friends did it last year,” she said.

Back for his 18th Plunge was Jerry Hickman, a 75-year-old former U.S. Marine from Ocean View. This year he raised $1,427 in support of Special Olympics Delaware and its programs that serve 4,200 children and adults statewide.

Mr. Hickman, accompanied by a small platoon of family and colleagues, is already looking ahead two years. “It will be my 20th in 2020,” he said. “So, it will be 20 in 2020 …”

As expected there was plenty of Eagle Green on the beach and the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.

Among the attention grabbers: Sam and Nancy Lesher, a husband/wife tandem from Lewes. They both wore No. 9 Foles jerseys, Eagle scarves and gloves and dog masks – a “Philly phanatic” canine craze that began when Eagles players Lane Johnson and Chris Long left the field wearing dog masks following Philadelphia’s 15-10 win over Atlanta in the NFC divisional playoff round.

Their costume attire drew numerous requests for photo opts. And they took the plunge, too.

“We love doing this every year,” said Mr. Lesher.

Last year they dressed as a fisherman and a shark. In 2016, their costume gig was Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady with a tire pump, an all-in-good-fun reference to the controversy surrounding the infamous football “deflategate.”

“It’s for a good cause,” said Mr. Lesher. “It’s so much fun.”

This year’s event featured 3,383 registered polar bears who teamed to raise approximately $875,000, said SODE spokesman Jon Buzby. That was just shy of last year’s event that raised for than $900,000.

In its 27-year history, the Plunge has raised close to $11 million for Special Olympics Delaware’s year-round program of sports training, athletic competition and related programs.

“We continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support from what is now multiple generations of Bears who make it a tradition to continue and support an event that means so much to our 4,200 athletes in terms of not only dollars raised to support them on the fields and in the gyms and around the tracks, but the awareness it creates to the community of the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Mr. Buzby.

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

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