Polar Plunge biggest fundraiser for Special Olympics

Chatham-Kent hosting the Special Olympics in June will likely be the biggest sporting event in the municipality this year.

The Special Olympics school championships — with more than 1,000 athletes and coaches — will take place June 10-12, at various venues in Chatham and Ridgetown.

The last time the Special Olympics school championships were held in Chatham-Kent was 26 years ago in 1997.

The events, geared to ages 14 to 21 and include track and field, soccer, basketball, floor hockey and bocce ball.

Ridgetown will host bocce ball and basketball, Chatham-Kent Secondary School will host track and field, St. Clair College Thames Campus will host floorball and soccer.

Athletes will be housed at the Ridgetown College University of Guelph campus.

Jason Herder, who has spearheaded Law Enforcement Torch Run events supporting the games over the years, said hosting the Special Olympic Ontario School Championships will cost $400,000.

Herder said there is no cost for the athletes, as their travel, lodging and meals are all paid for.
Chatham-Kent provided $25,000 to host the games. They will also provide transit busses to help move the athletes to the venues.

Herder said part of that is to ensure the cost of transportation, lodging, meals and medals are covered for the approximately 800 athletes coming from outside Chatham-Kent.

Fundraising has taken place over the past year. A major fundraiser–the annual Polar Plunge will be held at the Sons of Kent brewery on January 20, with a goal of raising $88,000.

Last year the Chatham Polar Plunge event raised $88,000, doubling its goal of $40,000. Chatham’s Polar Plunge fundraising total was the third highest in the province last year, trailing just Peel Region and Windsor.

The Polar Plunge has a party-type vibe, with plungers wearing costumes, music, food and drink. Spectators are more than welcome to attend and cheer on the plungers.

The 2024 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Ontario marks the seventh anniversary of this event in Chatham-Kent.

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