It may have been above freezing, but Lake Ontario provided little warmth for those who braved the waters at Sunnyside Beach February 24 to support Special Olympians in pursuing their dreams.
The 75 participants who raced in and out of the chilly water raised over $17,500 for Special Olympics Ontario.
Constable Ryan Park donned his police uniform with shorts during the plunge in support of the cause.
"Anyway we can help out or give back is always a win for us," said Park. "We want to make sure the athletes get the support they need. I was an athlete growing up and being with your teammates and building a bond, it's great. So to help these Special Olympians compete is amazing because they will build those friendships and partnerships that will last a lifetime."
Park's daughter, Riley, and wife, Lisa, were on hand to cheer him on.
"It's 30 seconds of pain to support years of enjoyment for these athletes," Park said.
Divisional Policing Support Unit Superintendent Dave Rydzik said the many volunteers, participants and sponsors who made the day possible are inspired by the Special Olympics Ontario athletes.
"That's why I think there are so many dedicated volunteers to this particular cause because once you see the look on participants in the Special Olympics, the excitement in their eyes, the ability that Special Olympics gives them to participate in an organized sporting event you can't go back from that," Rydzik said. "That's why we do this event, the Torch Run in the summer and other events throughout the year, so we can make those dreams happen for Special Olympians."
Marine Unit officers wore survivor suits in the water to keep everyone safe, Toronto Paramedic Services stood by to provide any needed medical attention and Toronto Heavy Urban Search And Rescue provided tents to keep participants warm after their freezing dip.
The Divisional Policing Support Unit led the fundraising efforts with the Chief's Office and Parking Enforcement teams following up.
Chief Mark Saunders said Special Olympics Ontario is important to all law enforcement agencies in the province who have committed to raising $400,000 this year alone.
"Promoting inclusion is something that is so important for our Special Olympics athletes so we're excited to take part today," said Chief Saunders. "I wanted to support our men and women from the Toronto Police as well as the community in rallying for such a great cause."
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