Plunge Sunday: Special Olympics Delaware support set to ‘bear’ down!

3 collins family plunge

Members of the Collins family from Selbyville head for dry land and warmth after taking the plunge in the 2015 Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics.

REHOBOTH BEACH — With all due respect to the National Football League, this Sunday is: Plunge Day.

By scheduling coincidence, perhaps, a little gridiron game – Super Bowl 50; a 60-minute tussle between Denver’s Broncos and Carolina’s Panthers – will be played that evening, hours after several thousand polar bears plunge into the Atlantic Ocean off the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk in a cool fundraising climax that for the most part is a two-minute drill.

“Get in and out … as quickly as possible,” said Ann Grunert, Special Olympics Delaware’s executive director who is among a small pack of bears planning to take their 25th plunge on Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics’ 25th anniversary.

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The stormy fury of Winter Storm Jonas that recently battered Delaware’s coast will not pull the plug on the plunge.

“This is Delaware. It would take a lot more to shut the plunge down,” said SODE spokesman Jon Buzby. “We are a go.”

Plunge time is 1 p.m.

It all began in 1992 when 78 plungers raised $7,000.

Organizers are hoping for 3,700 bears in celebration of the 25th Polar Bear Plunge. That equates to one “Bear” for every athlete Special Olympics Delaware serves.

In 2015, a record 3,325 participants – many in costume/themed attire – braved 41-degree air temperature and 37-degree water, raising a record $780,000.

More than $8.3 million has been raised in The Plunge’s 24-year history.

“Our polar bears continue to support this fabulous event year after year,” said Ms. Grunert. “And they also continue to recruit their friends to join them. This event truly is family-friendly, and the perfect way to give back to the community and support such a worthy cause.”

“I think we have been awe on how it has captured the imagination of the community. They come out with every kind of wear. It is entertaining to see how people choose to celebrate that moment,” said Ms. Grunert. “It’s fun. It’s festive. It’s family. It is elevating at the same time to think that all of these people are making a difference. It’s not just a jump in the ocean. It’s really saying that there is a group of people among us who deserve our attention and our respect. You can’t pay for those bridges of acceptance.”

As of Jan. 27, there were more than 2,000 registered polar bears gearing to take the plunge.

Along with Ms. Grunert, the 25-year Polar Bear list includes Chip Davis, Bruce Egoff, Dave Frederick, Greg Mack, Connie Miller, John Miller and Greg Nolt.

Ms. Grunert says a quick dip in the ocean is far less painful than looking in the mirror.

“You know you are putting on a bathing suit, and you know as we get older everything is hanging out, dropping out and falling out,” she said. “That is definitely the harder part of the day. But I think it’s warming to know that we are part of an inclusive effort with the community to support our athletes. So I just think we are committed as ever to be a part of that with the community. Who wouldn’t want to be part that? People are doing this for our athletes. How can we stand on the sidelines and not want to be a part of that moment?”

The Plunge is a mega-fundraiser supporting Special Olympics Delaware’s year-round program of sports training, athletic competition and related programs for more than 3,700 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Host Rehoboth Beach rolls out the welcome mat for a weekend-long Plunge Festival, Feb. 5 -7 that features several Saturday activities:

  • Fire & Ice Event at the Rehoboth Beach Fire Department (noon to 3 p.m.); • 5k Run to the Plunge (1 p.m.);
  • restaurant chili contest (2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.);
  • and ice-sculpting contest (10 a.m. t0 12:30 p.m.).

The Pooch Plunge will not be held this year.

Restaurants and retailers throughout the Rehoboth Beach area have teamed up with Special Olympics Delaware to provide registered “Bears” with special discounts and activities throughout the weekend.

3 cool schools pledge table

Students in the Cool Schools program man the pledge table at last year’s Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics. The program seeks acceptance for thousands of Special Olympics athletes by “Pledging Respect”

Cool Schools is part of the Plunge event, both as participants as well as volunteers helping to promote acceptance for thousands of Special Olympics athletes by “Pledging Respect” in the annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign on the boardwalk. Spread the Word to End the Word is a Special Olympics initiative to encourage respectful language and stop the derogatory use of the “R” word “retard(ed)” in everyday speech.

“I think we walk away at the end of the day feeling so much more fulfilled knowing that more people have come to understand and recognize that all people among us deserve to be understood and appreciated for their skills and talent,” said Ms. Grunert. “That’s the bottom line. The money is wonderful. It fuels our growth. It allows us to do more; all good things. But on top of that it really is that acceptance and that understanding that is priceless.”

Wawa is back as the presenting sponsor for the 10th consecutive year and in addition to their financial support, their Community Care Coffee vehicle offers free hot coffee and hot chocolate at The Plunge.

 

“It is our privilege to provide warmth to the brave, chilly plungers with Wawa hot beverages who are showing their support for such an important cause.  We are proud to be a sponsor of Special Olympics,” said John Sharpless, director of store operations for Delaware Wawa stores.

For more information on The Plunge and the weekend events visit: www.plungeDE.org.

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

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