Each day the athletes of Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI) push themselves outside of their comfort zone, breaking down barriers to create a unified world. Michigan advocates around the state stepped up to the challenge to support our athletes and join The Movement by taking the 2022 Polar Plunge, making it the best year yet!
4,800 Michiganders jumped into icy water to raise awareness for our athletes, raising $1,450,000 million for Special Olympics Michigan. Money raised allows athletes to compete in sports and health programming year-round at no cost.
“The original goal of raising one-million dollars was a lofty one,” said Tim Hileman, President and CEO of Special Olympics Michigan. “We shattered that goal with the help of our brave volunteers and generous sponsors. People are excited to gather together, have fun and support an initiative that unites us all.”
This year, SOMI hosted more than 30 Polar Plunges in-person and a Virtual Plunge, kicking off the season in January with a new challenge, asking thrill-seekers to take the Super Plunge, jumping multiple times over the course of 24-hours.
2022 also welcomed the Cool Schools challenge, encouraging students and staff from Unified Champion Schools (UCS) at Holland Christian, Saline High School, and Waverly High School to take the Plunge during the school day to promote inclusion.
"Inclusion means to me that kids get to experience things that every kid gets to," said Ty Van Wieren, a Holland Christian staff member who jumped 5 times for his students that were unable to. "Our students are part of the student body. They are not separated from anyone. It's relationships with everybody, it's eating at the same table at lunch. That's who we were made to be."
The record-breaking funding this year is the just first in many milestones for Special Olympics Michigan as the organization returns to in-person programming. Funds raised will go toward major initiatives in getting athletes back on the playing fields. Money raised will help support the return of the 2022 Summer Games. In addition, SOMI will send a team of more than 50 to 2022 USA Games in Orlando, Florida to represent the Great Lakes state on the national stage in June. In August, the city of Detroit will host the single-largest Unified international tournament, welcoming 24 soccer teams from around the world made of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities for the Unified Cup 2022.
The Polar Plunge is the single largest fundraiser for Special Olympics Michigan, presented by the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), a movement of volunteers dedicated to increasing awareness and funds for SOMI athletes across the state. Special Olympics Michigan is dedicated to creating a world that accepts and welcomes every single person regardless of ability or disability.