There wasn’t a speck of daylight within the sky because the frigid February wind whistled via the empty seaside at Sandy Level State Park outdoors Annapolis, Maryland. The seaside and surrounding vendor tents had been quiet and empty, however they’d quickly be stuffed with 1000’s of children, lecturers and administrative workers taking the Cool Colleges Plunge to boost cash for Particular Olympics Maryland.
After the Cool Colleges Plunge on February 2, there have been two extra days of cold-water dipping, together with the police plunge, company plunge and the Maryland plunge. Lately, plunges had been unfold additional aside to abide by the social distancing pointers put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was later within the winter. The Cool Colleges Plunge was at full capability for the primary time since 2019, and the anticipation of the back-to-normal occasion made for a much bigger spectacle. It’s the largest Cool Colleges Plunge in Maryland’s historical past with 5,682 college students. The second largest involvement with the Cool Colleges Plunge got here in 2020, with 4,475 members.
Because the occasion began in 2010, Particular Olympics Maryland has seen 150 colleges take part and $3.6 million raised.
“The Cool Colleges Plunge has grown tremendously over the previous 13 years, and 2023 was our greatest 12 months but,” says Jessie Hayes, vp of growth for Particular Olympics Maryland. “We had a document variety of Cool Colleges plungers, and collectively, they broke the Cool Colleges single 12 months fundraising document, elevating upwards of $680,000. Every of the 86 colleges that plunged exemplify the mission, imaginative and prescient and values of Particular Olympics Maryland and are making a Unified technology. We’re proud and excited for the way forward for this occasion and hope that new colleges get entangled in 2024.”
A giant purpose why the Cool Colleges Plunge has develop into so widespread is due to Particular Olympics Unified Champion Colleges®. It’s a program involving pre-Okay via college and focuses on inclusivity within the college area. The colleges present assets like Particular Olympics Unified Sports activities®—a program that permits people with and with out mental disabilities to coach and compete on the identical sports activities group—inclusive youth management and complete college engagement.
Marianne Shultz first bought concerned with Particular Olympics Maryland as a coach. Finally, she earned a place with Anne Arundel County Public Colleges because the athletic liaison who oversees all Unified Sports activities and Unified Champion Colleges. She says the attain of Unified Sports activities has grown considerably, from about 5 college students to 40 or extra per college right now. “It’s vital as a result of inclusion is such a significant a part of on a regular basis actions to be included with whichever occasions are occurring,” Shultz says. “It’s so vital to really feel such as you belong.”
And in the case of the Cool Colleges Plunge, Shultz loves the best way it challenges the scholars. She additionally enjoys watching the children elevate cash and compete in one thing that’s off the sector or court docket. “The joy, the fun, smiling from ear to ear, competing for one thing that’s for an ideal trigger,” she says.
Ericka Gannon works as a coordinator for Younger Athletes in Anne Arundel County, and having been concerned with the motion for a decade, she says it’s the folks and relationships that bought her hooked. “I simply understand how fantastic the group is, and I like to help folks and make them higher,” Gannon says.
If anybody ever questions Gannon’s dedication to Particular Olympics, they shouldn’t. Per week previous to the Cool Colleges Plunge, she participated within the Tremendous Plunge, an occasion that additionally raises cash for the group. But it surely’s not simply any plunge: on this case, the participant takes a dip within the water each hour for twenty-four hours straight. “It’s not that chilly. Truly, it’s,” she says, laughing.
Not less than it’s chilly for a trigger: serving to to make on a regular basis life for Particular Olympics Maryland athletes extra inclusive.