Skip to main content

Special Olympics Michigan Polar Plunge Season Celebrates Record Turnouts, Donations in 2023

More than six thousand plungers braved the cold to support Special Olympics Michigan athletes, raising $1.7 million.

Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI) is dedicated to creating a world that accepts and welcomes every person regardless of ability or disability. The 2023 Polar Plunge season celebrated the push for a more inclusive world, with record-breaking crowds and funds raised for the second consecutive year. 

The initial $1.2 million collective fundraising goal for more than 25 locations statewide was reached only weeks into the 2023 Polar Plunge season. At the final Polar Plunge, the season closed $500,000 above its target, raising more than $1.7 million this season. 

“We did it! This has been an amazing Polar Plunge season,” said Tim Hileman, President & CEO of Special Olympics Michigan. “Special Olympics brings people together and the Polar Plunge is the perfect example of what can be done when we come together. We believe that every athlete has a voice to be shared, and Polar Plunges provide a platform by raising money and awareness.”

The Polar Plunge is presented by the Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), a movement of volunteers dedicated to increasing awareness and funds for SOMI athletes across the state. Funds raised enable more than 23,000 athletes to compete, travel, and showcase a message of inclusion at statewide events at no cost to them. 

“What filled my cup this year is that every single Polar Plunge surpassed its budget,” said Andrea Rachko, Senior Director of Michigan LETR & Events. “It’s amazing to see what our Plungers will do for the athletes. They were unstoppable.”

In 2022, through grassroots fundraising efforts, Michigan LETR raised more than $2 million for SOMI athletes, fully funding the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games, three days of sports competition at the largest state competition of the year. Michigan LETR intends fund to State Summer Games and day-long athlete competition again in 2023.

In addition to thousands of individual Plungers gathering at more than two dozen locations throughout the state, seven Michigan Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools hosted Polar Plunges on campus, offering a Cool Schools Plunge. 

“The schools really get behind it,” said Dan Ekonen, Senior Director of Program Leadership. “Their enthusiasm is second to none. Everyone gets dressed up, teachers and administrators make the jump alongside their students. It makes it a schoolwide activity as much as a fundraiser.”

The Cools School Plunge encourages students and staff to come together and celebrate the Special Olympics movement by taking the Plunge together, raising funds as a student body. This year, students and staff raised $126,000.

The Polar Plunge is Special Olympics Michigan’s largest annual fundraiser.