Thousands are expected to dive in to the return of the in-person Polar Plunge to help Special Olympics athletes in B.C.
Oak Bay police Sgt. Kirstin Stuart is the local team lead this year as dippers head for Cadboro-Gyro Beach, where the Saanich department did its virtual plunge in 2022.
While a fair bit warmer than the Salish Sea, Stuart spent much of her youth in a pool as a synchronized swimmer and is familiar with the benefits of sport – well beyond the physical.
“It was my friend group, it was my social activity, it kept me out of trouble,” she said with a chuckle. “So anything that encourages people to be in sport, I’m in.”
Those social aspects are the highlight this year, as plungers gather in-person again, with a focus on getting Special Olympics athletes back out and training together after years of virtual training. Special Olympics BC programs are about halfway back to pre-pandemic levels.
The event raises vital funds to help empower year-round sports, youth and health programs for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
It started as an arm of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the same cause, the first Vancouver Island event saw plungers take the dip at Willows Beach in 2018. After a couple years online participants are ready to #plunge4SOBC in person this year.
While it remains in partnership with the Law Enforcement Torch Run – and cops from across the south Island dive into the fundraiser – they’ve been joined along the way by other first responders, community leaders and residents.
For example, Mayor Kevin Murdoch is a member of the Oak Bay team.
In nearby Victoria, VicPD Chief Del Manak is already “training” for the plunge, though judging by the video on social media featuring a rubber ducky and a kiddie pool, he has a way to go by dip day.
This year @ChiefManak dove deep into his training for the @sobcsociety Polar Plunge. Join us Sunday, Feb 19 at Cadboro-Gyro Park in Saanich to get #FreezingForAReaaon. Registration starts at 9:30. Support our team or start your own at https://t.co/jOZy6FtjWW. #yyj pic.twitter.com/6l8Q4qIAzf— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) February 2, 2023
Community and virtual participation runs from Feb. 18 to March 9, with the Vancouver Island team hitting the waves with fanfare, and a performance by Oak Bay’s own Stephanie Greaves on Feb. 19 at Cadboro-Gyro Park in Saanich.
Registration for the Vancouver Island Polar Plunge starts at 9:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 10:30 and waves of plungers hitting the water at 11. Visit plunge4specialolympics.crowdchange.ca for other locations, to register for the virtual plunge and participate from anywhere or to support a team.
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