HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) — As with most things, the Special Olympics Ohio Polar Plunge looks different this year.
The annual fundraiser supports 22,000 Special Olympic athletes in Ohio; but instead of eight different plunges held throughout the state, this year, they’re encouraging everyone to “Plunge My Way.”
“For many athletes, we are their livelihood and their social aspect of their life too,” says Special Olympics Ohio CEO Jessica Stewart.
That’s true for athletes like 27-year-old Jimmy Arquilla of Huber Heights.
“You know when you lift the weight, and you get a medal, and you start crying, and you just grab your parents, and both you start crying,” describes Jimmy.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jimmy has defied the odds.
“We knew he’d walk, we just didn’t know how well,” says Jimmy’s father, Jim, who’s also a coach for Special Olympics. “When I [saw] him run, I got so emotional and one of the parents asked me, ‘Is your son in front?’ and I said ‘No. Mine’s in back,’ and they just looked at me and I said but ‘He’s running.’ And that’s all that mattered–that he was running. I had tears running down my face.”
Jimmy has competed for roughly the last 15 years in the Special Olympics in sports like track and field, softball, bowling, soccer, and basketball. This is his first year taking part in the Polar Plunge.
“Jimmy went out front after a heavy snow and rolled all the way down our hill,” describes Jim.
“Some of our plunges historically in the past are– you jump into a body of water and then you’re completely submerged,” describes Stewart.
Plunges traditionally pump in $350,000 to $400,000 to Special Olympics Ohio. This year, they have a fundraising goal of $170,000.
“We’ve seen more folks who haven’t necessarily plunged in person before, say ‘you know what, this looks okay. I think I could do something in my backyard. I could dump water over my head, I can create a slip n’ slide,'” says Stewart.
This year, each dip in the water looks a little different, but each one goes to supporting athletes.
“It’s their time to shine. They get out. They get to show off what they can do, what they can train,” says Jim.
The Polar Plunge fundraiser runs through mid-March. To learn more, click here.