When is the last time you jumped into freezing cold water? If you would have asked me that question 2 weeks ago, I would have said “Never!” I enjoy being warm and comfortable, rarely going in the water at all. Ask me today, and I can say “twice in the last two weeks!”
Last October, my husband and I attended the Ties and Tennies Gala for the Special Olympics in Detroit (the tennis shoes were on theme, we don't just have horrible fashion sense). We were lucky enough to sit at a table with a great group of people who were involved in the organization and they quickly recruited me for their team for the Polar Plunge. If you know me, you know I am usually game for a challenge. I enjoy being able to say I’ve done something most other people haven’t – ex. Rappelling from a 26-story building in Detroit and running a marathon last year.
Flash forward to February 28 – a beautiful sunny, yet crisp 19 degrees. We met at Atwood Brewery in Detroit for the pre-party and then jumped on a bus to drive to the Detroit River. The event organizers had to cut a giant hole in the ice (I swear they cut 2-3 inches of ice off the top), and we lined up for our turn. I didn’t give myself a chance to think before I jumped and as soon as I hit the water my body instantly froze. After the agonizing swim to the ladder I couldn’t use my hands to grip. Thankfully they were well prepared for that and had someone on the dock to pull me up. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the day. It was such an exhilarating experience, I had to do it again… one week later.
On March 7th my dad and sisters (Maggie and Sunny), at the last minute my 6-year-old daughter, and I joined forces to raise money for the Lapeer Special Olympics – Team Plunging for J.A.R.S (Jayne. Agnes. Rosie. Sammy.). The weather was a balmy 40 degrees (felt like a heat wave compared to the week before). It was a perfect day to jump into a pool of cold water. My sisters (Special Olympics athletes themselves) all came to support us along with my mom and grandma. Quite the cheering section (said with a hint of sarcasm because when I asked Jayne and Sammy if they saw me jump, they shrugged and said “I don’t know”). At the end of the plunge, they handed out awards (Esther won Youngest Jumper) and we had donuts and danced and had a great time. Lapeer’s goal was to raise $10,000 and at the time of the event they had raised over $19,000! It goes to show how good people are and how important the Special Olympics is.
I talk a lot about the importance of having a great quality of life today, as well as in the future. I truly believe we can all live ideal lives. The Special Olympics is helping so many people live that great life. Sammy and Jayne have been involved in the Special Olympics for years now and I couldn’t be more thankful for the organization. Each year they go up to Traverse City for the Winter Games and are treated like celebrities. You can see how proud they are of each medal they earn – so proud they donned the medals at my brother’s wedding!
Often, people worry about planning for their child or loved one with disabilities – the most vocalized concern being “what happens to them when something happens to me?” While this is a valid concern, it is important to also ask “what can we do today to live a great life?” There are so many strategies and organizations that can assist families, so they are able to live truly great, impactful, full lives! The Special Olympics is just one of many. If you or anyone you know is looking for guidance for living that great life, we would be happy to sit down and have a conversation about what that could look like. Maybe it won't involve jumping into freezing cold water with your family. Maybe it will. I'd love to find out!