By Stori Long
Special Olympics Texas is giving Baylor Bears and the Waco community a chance to be polar bears for a day in order to raise money at the Polar Plunge.
At noon on Saturday volunteers will be plunging into a pool at the YMCA on Harvey Drive with temperatures lowered to the chilly 40s. The volunteers are sponsored by various people and organizations that have agreed to donate money to Special Olympics on behalf of those taking the plunge.
Special Olympics Texas is divided into 22 different areas across the state, with Waco located in the Heart of Texas area.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want to be involved.’ But they keep putting it off,” said Tommy Smith, Heart of Texas area director. “This is an opportunity for those who haven’t been in the past to get involved and do it in a unique and memorable way.”
The money raised will be used to aid in the training of Special Olympics athletes. On its website, Special Olympics Texas describes its mission as one dedicated to providing year-round training and competition in sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, allowing them the chance to develop physically and emotionally by gaining confidence and strength.
“I think the population of people with special needs, served by organizations like Special Olympics Texas, are often overlooked by others,” said Little Rock senior Hanna Morse, Baylor special needs ministry participant. “They have value and potential that is unrealized. Being part of something like this helps them to realize their value and worth in Christ.”
Special Olympics Texas is a non-profit organization and is supported by donations from individuals and organizations in Texas, making events such as the Polar Plunge an important part of the success of Special Olympics Texas and essential to providing the necessary equipment and training.
“Special Olympics Texas receives no government funding,” Smith said. “We depend on donations to sustain and provide services to our athletes. Fundraisers like the Polar Plunge help us to provide the resources that we do.”
This year’s event is sponsored by Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics in the world, according to the Special Olympics Texas website. This organization is made of law enforcement workers who believe in the vision and mission of the Special Olympics.
“Special Olympics athletes deserve the same opportunity as anyone else to do sports,” Smith said. “They have a right to it, too.”