Polar Plunge Saturday helps Special OlympicsSoccer balls, bowling pins and track relay batons can do more than burn calories. They can change the public’s perception about a portion of the population as well. That’s one of the goals of Special Olympics North Dakota, an organization which holds athletic events for people with intellectual disabilities like Down syndrome, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, said Kathy Meagher, president and CEO.
Soccer balls, bowling pins and track relay batons can do more than burn calories.
They can change the public’s perception about a portion of the population as well.
That’s one of the goals of Special Olympics North Dakota, an organization which holds athletic events for people with intellectual disabilities like Down syndrome, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, said Kathy Meagher, president and CEO.
“Special Olympics uses the vehicle of sports to improve the lives of those people as well as the lives of their family members,” she said.
So to keep the foot-, basket-, and volleyballs rolling, organizers have scheduled the fifth annual Polar Plunge for Saturday.
“People with intellectual disorders oftentimes have a stereotype that they aren’t able to give to the community or be productive members of society,” Meagher said.
So participation in events like handball and snowshoes lets the public see that people with intellectual disabilities are like everyone else. It also builds the self-confidence and self-esteem of those who participate, she said.
Sherry Schutt is an administrative assistant at the James River Correctional Center. She is also a supporter and volunteer of the Polar Plunge in part, because of her nephew, Blaine Schulz. At 30 years old, Schulz has competed in Special Olympics for about 25 years. He was the 1996 Male Athlete of the Year, is a Special Olympics Global messenger and has competed in Special Olympics World Games.
Schulz was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Schutt said when Schulz competes in Special Olympics events, he always ends with a smile on his face.
“He just absolutely shines when he is competing and does the best that he can do,” she said.
Some of Schutt’s coworkers organized the Plunge, which, in its fifth year, is the first of three in the state. Fargo and Grand Forks’ events are in their third years.
One of the organizers is committee member Jeff Brodigan. Brodigan also works at the James River Correctional Center. He said the Plunge will take place in the Buffalo Mall parking lot this year, as opposed to at the Jamestown Reservoir in years past.
Participants who raise at least $75 jump into the unheated water. And while February isn’t one of the warmer months in North Dakota, Mother Nature appears to be in a forgiving mood this weekend. Saturday’s high is forecast at 37 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Last year, the Polar Plunge raised about $4,500, said James Taylor. Taylor not only works for JRCC, but he also sponsors Polar Plunge on behalf of his business, Third Day Photography.
The money raised contributes to the $1.1 million Special Olympics North Dakota needs each year to provide events and activities for its 1,400 participants across the state. Special Olympics doesn’t charge athletes or their families registration or any other fee to participate, Meagher said.
To participate in this year’s Polar Plunge, stop by the Buffalo Mall for registration at 1 p.m. Saturday or watch the Plunge itself which begins at 2 p.m. Even those uninterested in the chilly fall can contribute. For $30, they can purchase a “Too Chicken to Plunge” T-shirt.
For more information, visit the websites http://specialolympicsnorthdakota.org or http://jmstpolarplunge. org.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at email@example.com