Hundreds participate in Polar Bear Plunge benefiting Special Olympics

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - For 23 years, families have been coming to Sullivan's Island for a New Year's Splash at the beach.

The Dunleavy's Polar Bear Plunge benefits Special Olympics in South Carolina.

"It's the perfect thing to start the new year off right," says participant Jennifer Jordan.

Development Director for Special Olympics South Carolina, Sandye Williams says they expected to raise about $40,000 this year.

Williams says the event turned into a fundraiser about 15 years ago when a Special Olympics Athlete was representing South Carolina in a world game in Ireland.

"We needed to have funds to get her there and Dunleavy's was nice enough to let us make the connection between the Irish Pub and Ireland and turn the plunge into a fundraiser for Special Olympics," Williams said.

There are nearly 25,000 Special Olympics athletes that compete year-round in up to 26 different sports.

Special Olympics give children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete.

Athlete Stevie Betros competes in various sports.

"I do kayak, tennis, sailing swimming, golfing and we have a lot of kids that do special Olympics," he said.

He says it's not all about winning though he's earned a goal medal in golf.

"I don't care what people get, if it's gold, sliver or bronze," Betros said. "We are out here having fun, that's what Special Olympics are."

Having fun was also what the plunge was about as hundreds dressed in costumes and braved the cool water.

Despite the the seasonably warm weather on Sunday, participants say the water was still cold.

For many the motivation comes from the cause behind the plunge.

"It's one the big reasons we decided to do this," participant, Laurie Meyer said.

Davidson Bendell said he didn't want to go in the water at first but he's glad to be a part of it.

"It's really fun to be helping people around the Lowcountry," Bendall said.

Ashley Dangerfield has been doing the plunge for a couple of year. She brought out her friend to get in on the experience.

"Special Olympics is a great cause so if you're going to do something fun do it with a cause," Dangerfield said.

There will also be plunges across the state to help fund the programs.

"It's a work day for me but it doesn't feel like work because it's just so fun to see everybody come out, great karma for the new year," Williams said.

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