Thursday, June 13, 2024

Polar Plunge looks to raise money for Special Olympics athletes

Local residents of the North Country are raising money for the athletes of Special Olympics New York in this year’s Plattsburgh Polar Plunge, happening this Sunday Nov. 19 at the City Beach.

According to a press release from Special Olympics, New York, the Plattsburgh Polar Plunge, organized by members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New York, has raised over $230,000 over the past six events. The plunge is an opportunity to give back through fundraising and a desire for community togetherness for a common cause by “taking a dip or a slow crawl into the chilly waters of Lake Champlain.”

Carolyn Braunius, associate director of development for Special Olympics New York, is proud of the success and accomplishments the organization has been doing on a local scale.
“It’s a great way for people to come out and do something that’s usually on their bucket list, and support Special Olympics at the same time,” Braunius said. Many different plunges are happening this same weekend across the state in cities like St. Lawrence, Lake George, Brookhaven and the Bronx.

All proceeds raised at the Plattsburgh Polar Plunge benefit Special Olympics athletes in the Clinton and Essex county areas. Last year, a grand total $53,000 was raised to help these local athletes.

Special Olympics New York works with and raises money for over 68,000 athletes across Upstate New York with roughly three seasons of local, regional and state competitions by providing everything for the athletes and their families at no cost to them, as it ultimately, “builds a community around a fundraising project.”

“We’d love to have people who live in Plattsburgh come and check out a local competition that features athletes they’re fundraising for,” Braunius said.

In addition to extra fundraising, even more help is given from different organizations who participate in the Plunge right from Plattsburgh State. Teams such as Sig Tau, Delta Phi Epsilon and the Cardinalette Kickline are scheduled to participate in this year’s Plunge.

Braunius advocates for any PSUC students who want to donate for the cause, and wishes to work even more with the university in future years. “It’s so great to see the teams [from PSUC] come out and volunteer and fundraise for us and do that kind of community service,” Braunius said.

Junior Michael Vogel, member and Director of Community Engagement for Sig Tau, said the fraternity has been “plunging” for five years. Being a part of the Plunge is one of the fraternity’s biggest events of the year, and consequently, “the thing we are most proud of to help out Special Olympics.”

Dressing up in polar bear costumes with some brothers last year, this is Vogel’s second year participating and his first year organizing the fundraising. The entire chapter goes, according to Vogel, and last year 29 out of 32 brothers plunged in Lake Champlain. This year, 42 brothers are signed up, each with $100 or more raised to help Special Olympics New York.

Along with raising money through friends and family, Vogel said the fraternity sets up extra community service with “pre-plunge parties” and puts up fliers across campus. Showing up “bright and early the day of”, the brothers even help out during the event.

“They normally have all their tents set up, but we try to help [the tablers] sell shirts and greet everyone who’s checking in,” Vogel said. “We basically run the whole show and do the groundwork while we’re there.”

Vogel loves giving back, and helping to see the positive impact the Plunge has on the community. “Plattsburgh Polar Plunge is a different feeling because we’re raising so much money for that one great cause.” Vogel said.

Junior Gabby Gambino, VP of Programming for Delta Phi Epsilon, said every sister goes to the event and 56 are registered to plunge this Sunday; this is also Gambino’s first year plunging. The sorority does the Plunge every year in support of the other organizations like Sig Tau to raise money for Special Olympics New York. “It’s a good feeling to give back to the other organizations who do it and support their philanthropies and what they’re fundraising for,” Gambino said.

By raising hundreds of dollars and having a cold swim in Lake Champlain for a good cause, PSUC students will give back to the Plattsburgh community in this year’s plunge. The Plattsburgh Polar Plunge is one of many events dedicated to helping local athletes of Special Olympics New York strive for success and win the gold.


Email Emma Vallelunga at

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