(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Michigan)
(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Michigan)

BY STEPHANIE SALVADERO, Staff Writer

With help from University of Michigan-Dearborn students, the sixth annual Detroit Polar Plunge raised approximately $170,000 for Special Olympics of Michigan (SOMI) athletes on February 18.

Proceeds go to over 21,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities to help them train and attend sports competitions year round, for no cost.

Through sports, SOMI endeavors to help these athletes “participate and receive respect as members of their communities,” according to their website (http://www.somi.org/). The Polar Plunge is a unique fund-raising opportunity for SOMI. SOMI supporters raise $75 per person to be able to plunge into the freezing waters of a Michigan lake in the name of Special Olympics athletes.

Taking place in cities all across Michigan, the Polar Plunge series is made possible by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a group of law enforcement officers and corrections department employees throughout the state of Michigan.

The Polar Plunge first came to Detroit in 2006, and according to Ashley Diersch, SOMI Development Manager, UM-Dearborn has been a great supporter over the past couple of years.

“It has been extremely helpful to the growth of the plunge,” explained Diersch. “In the past three years, the Detroit Polar Plunge has increased by over $120,000. This year’s total of $170,000 is the most we have raised and it is the largest in the state!”

Thanks to the plungers, athletes are able to reap many benefits from the Special Olympics: teamwork, communication skills, a sense of inclusion, and increased self-confidence.

“Who wouldn’t want to donate their time and money for such a great cause?” said Susan Jamison, President of Kappa Omega Chi Sorority at UM-Dearborn. “The Greek Leadership Council really drove home the importance of supporting the Polar Plunge and raising money for the Special Olympics.”

For the sixth year in a row, students helped out in the parking lot, at the changing areas, and on the docks.

“It is important that the plungers continue to stay involved and raise these funds because the sports provide so much to the athletes,” stressed Diersch.

Although the last plunges are taking place in Kalamazoo and Marquette this Saturday, March 17, donations will be collected online for the next three months.