WASHINGTON - Student-athletes filled the Raymond A. Dufour Center the evening of Feb. 3, preparing to face the cold for The Catholic University of America's annual Polar Bear Plunge and raising $31,199 for Special Olympics DC.
As part of the event, athletic teams are encouraged to raise money and players are eligible to take the plunge themselves after raising at least $50. This year the baseball team, the women's lacrosse team, and the football team were the top three donors.
The event began on the basketball court of the Dufour Center, where student-athletes filled the bleachers and took to the court to play volleyball with Special Olympians. Several students addressed the participants. Anthony Sokenu, associate director of sports for Special Olympics DC, talked about putting an end to mocking those with intellectual disabilities, encouraging students to sign a pledge ending the "R word" and getting the crowd excited to take the plunge.
"That quick word you are saying, those athletes that you saw out here today playing volleyball, out-serving you, out-running you, out-playing you, you are saying that they are slow, they are stupid, they are silly, they are the people we should laugh at," said Sokenu. "That is what you are saying when you use that word. You don't mean it that way, when you are referring to a bunch of people with intellectual disabilities."
After he spoke, teams ran from the Dufour Center out onto the football field, where there was an above-ground pool. One by one, students jumped into the pool, some wearing costumes to show their spirit in the 35-degree weather. Despite the cold, many students said they were excited to jump in support of a good cause.
"Polar Plunge is an event that I look forward to every year," said junior soccer player and diver Riley Hawblitzel. "Even though it's so cold and really scary I'm looking forward to raising some awareness for those with disabilities."
"I think it's for a good cause and I'm happy I did it," said senior tennis player Laura Torsiello.
All of the contributions from the 2017 Polar Bear Plunge go directly to Special Olympics DC, helping to provide sports and fitness programs year-round to those with intellectual disabilities.
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