Plunge for Special Olympics This Saturday


Dreaming of beach days? Why wait to plunge into the ocean? The weather may not be ideal, but the cause will warm your heart. The Freezin’ For a Reason polar plunge for Special Olympics New York is this weekend.

On Saturday, March 24 at noon, hundreds will jump into the chilly ocean at Riis Park Bay 9 for a good cause. Now in it’s 4th year, the Rockaway Polar Plunge aims to raise money for Special Olympics athletes across New York. “We serve individuals with intellectual disabilities and provide them with opportunities to train and compete in 22 Olympic-style sports. Through New York, we have 71,000 athletes in the program, with 40,000 of those in New York City. So we raise money so that the athletes and their families are never charged to participate,” Pamela Parker, associate director of development for Special Olympics New York said.

Last year, 225 people participated and they were able to raise $54,000. Passing the $50,000 mark is a big goal, as according to Parker, with at least that much, 125 athletes can participate in one sport for one season. “It costs $400 per athlete per season in one sport and most participate in multiple sports throughout the year. So it’s important that we raise as much as possible so we can continue supporting our current athletes and bring new athletes to our program,” Parker said.

Fundraising for the event is off to a good start, with about $20,000 raised as we go to press. So far the top individual fundraiser is none other than Father Jim Cunningham of St. Francis de Sales church. As we go to press, he alone raised more than $1,215. Another impressive individual is local Danny McKeefrey, who is the only member of team Kaitlin McKeefrey. Alone, McKeefrey, a member of the NYPD, has raised more than $1,300 for his sister, Kaitlin, who has Down syndrome. The top team fundraiser is team CT Warriors of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau. This team is captained by Officer Chris Kennis, who was very involved in the Special Olympics prior to moving to New York and he wanted to continue his involvement in the program, so he encouraged colleagues to join his team. Together they have raised more than $4,355 so far.

All are welcome to participate in Saturday’s plunge and there’s still time to register. Day-of registration begins at 10 a.m. at Bay 9 in Riis Park. Any dollar raised helps, but plungers who raise at least $150 receive a special Polar Plunge sweatshirt.

All plungers are also welcome to the after-party at the Bungalow Bar, where they’ll receive a complimentary drink. The Rockaway plunge was started in honor of Special Olympics athlete and Bungalow Bar employee, Emily Hutton, who died in 2014. “We plunge in her memory every year. From the beginning, this plunge was driven by Emily’s mom, Noelle. Each year, her team raises a lot of money and they really rally around Emily’s memory,” Parker said.

Those too chicken to plunge are encouraged to show up and cheer the plungers on. Those who want to volunteer to help with the event are also welcome and can contact Parker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 646-491-6035.

For more information about Saturday’s plunge, check out