MICHELLE T. BERNARD
Special Olympics Lincoln County will be holding its seventh annual Polar Plunge on Saturday, at the Betty G. Ross Recreation Center in Lincolnton. All proceeds from this event, which program coordinator Celeste Frazier said is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, will be kept in Lincoln County to benefit Special Olympics athletes.
“We ask people to either sponsor somebody to plunge, plunge themselves or just donate,” Frazier, who has been the program coordinator for Special Olympics for more than 20 years, said. “I’ve never plunged – I always pay my daughter to do it for me. She’s been doing it since she was in middle school.”
It’s now “Polar Plunge season.” They’re done all over the world to benefit various charities, according to Frazier. At one time, Lincoln County conducted its Polar Plunge in conjunction with Mecklenburg County and, for a few years, they did it with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Now they do it on their own.
“We have two major events in the county and that’s the bowling, which is this Thursday at Pin Station in Newton, and the spring games, but our athletes travel to other events a lot,” Frazier said. “We have a basketball competition in March and one of the big things I’m looking for now are new uniforms for the team. Our Special Olympics athletes never have to pay a fee to travel to or compete in events. The money we raise stays here in Lincoln County so we can use it.”
Special Olympics began in 1968 as a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities. Today it is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, with more than 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries and more than a million volunteers, according to the Special Olympics website.
“The social aspects and communication skills are two of the big things that Special Olympics helps bring out in these children,” Frazier said. “They bond with friends and continue to keep in touch even after they stop competing in events. It brings them out and it gives them the chance to be out in the normalcy of the world and that’s what we want. We don’t ever want our athletes to feel like they are on the back burner. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they come in first place or last. It’s just the thought of them being able to participate and do it.”
Frazier said that, even if people don’t want to donate or plunge, she’d love for them to come out and support the event.
Registration or donations can be done on-line at www.firstgiving.com/sonc/lincolnplunge or the day of the event beginning at 10:30 a.m. The fee for “Pee Wee Plungers” (11 years and under) is $10 and all others is $25. Individuals do not have to plunge in order to donate to Special Olympics. The Betty G. Ross Recreation Center is located at 800 Madison Street in Lincolnton.