Residents to plunge for the Special Olympics

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Polar bears are taking over Long Island, and they’re ready to brave Hempstead Harbor’s cold waters.

The 13th annual Town of North Hempstead Polar Plunge to support the Special Olympics of New York will kick off at noon on Saturday at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington.

“The town is always so honored to be able to host the annual Polar Plunge at North Hempstead Beach Park,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “It is exhilarating to see so many brave residents take to the chilly waters and raise funds to benefit the Special Olympic athletes.”

The event is free but donations are recommended for people entering individually or in teams.

Special Olympic athletes and caregivers can plunge for free.

Six-hundred people jumped into the icy water last year, with over 400 spectators on hand, raising over $70,000.

The funds help provide year-round sports training and competitions for more than 65,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities to participate in over 22 Olympic-style sports.

“It’s all about community awareness,” said Rebecca Strickland, associate director of development for the Special Olympics of New York’s Long Island region. “To have the community come out and support the cause is a great thing, and even some of the Special Olympic athletes come out and jump in.”

Strickland said polar plunges are the largest fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

People who want to support the Special Olympics but not go in the water can still raise money for the event and donate money for one of many prizes, including $150 for a sweatshirt; $250 for a water bottle; $500 for a beach towel; $1,000 for a cooler; and $2,500 for a backpack.

People not plunging can also purchase a “Too chicken to plunge” shirt for $20 and stand with the spectators in the “chicken coop,” Strickland said.

“People say the water is cold, but everyone says it’s worth it,” Strickland said. “It’s because you’re freezing for a reason.”

It costs $400 to support training and competition for one athlete for one sports season, a news release said.

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