Cool Colleges Plunge Takes Over Sandy Level State Park in File Numbers

There wasn’t a speck of daylight within the sky because the frigid February wind whistled by way of the empty seaside at Sandy Level State Park outdoors Annapolis, Maryland. The seaside and surrounding vendor tents had been quiet and empty, however they’d quickly be full of 1000’s of children, academics and administrative employees taking the Cool Colleges Plunge to boost cash for Particular Olympics Maryland.

A group of students jump into the water for the Special Olympics Maryland Cool Schools Plunge.

Greater than 5,600 college students went freezing for a cause through the Particular Olympics Maryland Cool Colleges Plunge.

After the Cool Colleges Plunge on February 2, there have been two extra days of cold-water dipping, together with the police plunge, company plunge and the Maryland plunge. In recent times, plunges had been unfold additional aside to abide by the social distancing pointers put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was later within the winter. The Cool Colleges Plunge was at full capability for the primary time since 2019, and the anticipation of the back-to-normal occasion made for an even bigger spectacle. It’s the largest Cool Colleges Plunge in Maryland’s historical past with 5,682 college students. The second largest involvement with the Cool Colleges Plunge got here in 2020, with 4,475 contributors.

For the reason that occasion began in 2010, Particular Olympics Maryland has seen 150 faculties take part and $3.6 million raised.

“The Cool Colleges Plunge has grown tremendously over the previous 13 years, and 2023 was our largest 12 months but,” says Jessie Hayes, vp of growth for Particular Olympics Maryland. “We had a report variety of Cool Colleges plungers, and collectively, they broke the Cool Colleges single 12 months fundraising report, elevating upwards of $680,000. Every of the 86 faculties that plunged exemplify the mission, imaginative and prescient and values of Particular Olympics Maryland and are making a Unified technology. We’re proud and excited for the way forward for this occasion and hope that new faculties become involved in 2024.”

A giant cause why the Cool Colleges Plunge has develop into so standard is due to Particular Olympics Unified Champion Colleges®. It’s a program involving pre-Okay by way of college and focuses on inclusivity within the college house. The faculties present assets like Particular Olympics Unified Sports activities®—a program that enables people with and with out mental disabilities to coach and compete on the identical sports activities group—inclusive youth management and entire college engagement.

Two students pose for a photo at the Cool Schools Plunge.

College students throughout the nation who attend Particular Olympics Unified Champion Colleges® create inclusive college communities by way of Unified Sports activities®, inclusive youth management and entire college engagement.

Marianne Shultz first obtained concerned with Particular Olympics Maryland as a coach. Ultimately, she earned a place with Anne Arundel County Public Colleges because the athletic liaison who oversees all Unified Sports activities and Unified Champion Colleges. She says the attain of Unified Sports activities has grown considerably, from about 5 college students to 40 or extra per college in the present day. “It’s vital as a result of inclusion is such a significant a part of on a regular basis actions to be included with whichever occasions are happening,” Shultz says. “It’s so vital to really feel such as you belong.”

And in the case of the Cool Colleges Plunge, Shultz loves the way in which it challenges the scholars. She additionally enjoys watching the youngsters elevate cash and compete in one thing that’s off the sphere or court docket. “The joy, the fun, smiling from ear to ear, competing for one thing that’s for a terrific trigger,” she says.

Ericka Gannon works as a coordinator for Younger Athletes in Anne Arundel County, and having been concerned with the motion for a decade, she says it’s the folks and relationships that obtained her hooked. “I simply understand how fantastic the group is, and I like to assist folks and make them higher,” Gannon says.

If anybody ever questions Gannon’s dedication to Particular Olympics, they shouldn’t. Per week previous to the Cool Colleges Plunge, she participated within the Tremendous Plunge, an occasion that additionally raises cash for the group. Nevertheless it’s not simply any plunge: on this case, the participant takes a dip within the water each hour for twenty-four hours straight. “It’s not that chilly. Really, it’s,” she says, laughing.

Not less than it’s chilly for a trigger: serving to to make on a regular basis life for Particular Olympics Maryland athletes extra inclusive.