Toronto Police members, Ryerson University students and community members took an icy plunge to ensure athletes with intellectual disabilities get a chance to compete in the sports they love.
The Toronto Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Ontario took place in the Pitman Hall courtyard at Ryerson on March 5 drawing dozens of daring fundraisers who braved the icy pool.
S/Supt. Mark Barkley said Polar Plunges are being held by police services across Ontario with a goal of $600,000 for Special Olympic Ontario.
“It’s an amazing partnership and we’re really proud to be a part of that,” he said, of being part of the movement that included hosting the Special Olympics International Youth Games last year.
Special Olympics Ontario President & CEO Glen MacDonell said the plunge is a fun way to raise money but also creates awareness of their athletes and other ways people can participate, including volunteering at sporting events.
“The number one thing I hear from volunteers is always the same: ‘I get more out of it than I put in it.’ A lot of that comes from the athletes themselves who are highly appreciative of volunteers especially when it comes to law enforcement volunteers,” said MacDonell, noting the police officers are always welcomed by athletes. “If you think of someone with an intellectual disability, they can be disenfranchised in their community, but law enforcement is a beacon of support. They have lined up behind us, our athletes and events to give us a level of importance.”
MacDonell said the Toronto Police Service was the catalyst to expanding the athletes supported by Special Olympics Ontario from 4,800 in the mid-80s to 26,000 in Ontario alone today through the inaugural Law Enforcement Torch Run, which has now expanded across the country.
Ryerson University President & Vice-Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi praised the spirit and partnership exemplified in the event.
“Jumping into freezing cold water is a great Canadian thing to do and we’re happy to be a part of that,” said Lachemi, who announced Ryerson donating another $10,000 to the cause on top of the Ryerson students’ fundraising efforts. “I’m happy to stay on dry land to support the plunge, but I’m very proud of Ryerson University community members today who support such good work in the community.”
Supt. Dave Rydzik, the Chair of the Toronto Police Law Enforcement Torch Run, who raised $5,000 and stayed in the water for over a minute, credited volunteers and sponsors for making the event possible, including Leisure Pools, who built the pool and platform for plungers and also raised over $10,000 for the cause.