This year marks the 20th annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in Fishkill, NY. For the past two years, Vassar’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has teamed up with Bard College to help raise awareness and support Mid-Hudson Special Olympic athletes. As the Head of Community Outreach for SAAC, I look for ways to involve students in the greater community of Poughkeepsie. Every November, we host a Special Olympics Volleyball Tournament in the Bays, where student volunteers get to work at and referee matches. For the past three years, I have volunteered at the event, and I have always looked forward to talking to Special Olympic athletes. I have gotten the chance to listen to personal stories and learn about the positive impact that participating in athletics has had on many of them. Above all else, athletes have told me that Special Olympics New York has provided them with a strong support system during difficult times in their lives.
Special Olympics is particularly important to me because there have been times during my Vassar career where the college has felt like a bubble, but my work with Special Olympics has often kept me in touch with the community. This past year, SAAC went through a transition, rewriting and redirecting the group’s initiatives to change the structure and goals of the committee. One of the initiatives that we discussed was working more with the Poughkeepsie community. As a result, we decided to team up with Bard once again to support Special Olympics! Last year, Bard and Vassar combined to raise $2,255—$377 of which came from Vassar participants. So far this year, we have raised $550 from 33 participants. All the proceeds go directly to Special Olympics New York, which reaches approximately 3,500 athletes in the Mid-Hudson area. The money helps provide year-round sports training, equipment and competition for various Olympic sports, serving both children and adults.
Although I have never actually personally plunged, I have heard from fellow Vassar students that the experience is exhilarating. In addition to supporting a great cause, it is also an opportunity to get to meet new people! The plunge is taking place this Saturday and transportation to and from the Fresh Air Fund’s Sharpe Reservation will be provided. Buses leave at 12:00 p.m. from Main Circle, and the Plunge starts at 2 p.m. Registration goes from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. If you are interested in participating or donating, check out our team page online. Everyone is welcome to participate!