On Saturday, December 1, 11 student-athletes and several members of the D'Youville College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) raised funds for the Special Olympics at Woodlawn Beach for the 12th annual Polar Plunge.
The Polar Plunge takes place every year at this time with the goal of raising funds for the Special Olympics. This year, SAAC raised $1,540 through generous donations that will help support and sponsor Special Olympic athletes.
Five different D'Youville teams were represented at the Polar Plunge on Saturday. The softball team was represented by Ashley Carney, Brittaney Goodrich, and Rylie Russo while men's soccer and baseball were represented by Khaled Numan-Ali. Megan Dulniak, Brittany Cristofanelli, Anna Hayes, Dominique Riforgiato, and Laurie Poeller were in attendance on behalf of women's soccer with Rachel Johnson representing women's cross country. In addition, Helen Gibson represented cheerleading. On the administrative side, Associate Director of Athletics/Head Softball Coach/Senior Woman Administrator Ona Halladay took the plunge with the athletes.
As of Wednesday, $157,887 has been raised for the Buffalo Polar Plunge. This time last year, roughly $146,000 had been donated for the entire event.
Johnson, Co-President of SAAC and Athletics Committee Co-Chair, saw a great deal of pride from her fellow athletes in their mission to raise money for Special Olympic athletes.
"As collegiate athletes, we know what is is like to compete at a high level," said Johnson. "By raising money and being here, we wanted to be able to give these athletes the opportunity to do the same. I am really proud of our student-athletes and all of the people who attended the event that supported such an amazing cause."
A great deal of organization for the D'Youville team at the Polar Plunge came from Johnson and Carney, fellow Co-President of SAAC and Athletics Committee Co-Chair. Each were pivotal in bringing everyone together to take the plunge. All of the 11 participants in Saturday's event are either SAAC members or in Athletics Committee. SAAC is made up of student athlete representatives from each of D'Youville's 15 sports who are determined to improve the community by giving back and participating in events such as the Polar Plunge.
There are nearly five million Special Olympics athletes throughout the world, including athletes from ages eight and up from 172 countries. The Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver as as she worked in research of intellectual disabilities in the late 1940s to opening a summer camp for young individuals with intellectual disabilities in the early 1960s. From there, Shriver continues to run her camp in conjunction with the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and form the Special Olympics.