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New River Valley Polar Plunge helps Special Olympics Virginia raise $95,000



Radford, Virginia – Even though it was chilly outside on Saturday, people were in a competitive mood in Bisset Park for a worthy cause.

In Radford, more than 300 participants from throughout Southwest Virginia registered for the New River Valley Polar Plunge.

“It has been all kinds of incredible. People have come from all over the region. And they’re freezing for a reason. And our Special Olympic athletes our inspiration here,” said Radford Mayor David Horton.

All revenues from the $100 plunge went to Special Olympics Virginia, with contributions from each participant. However, the event’s organizers claim it’s about more than simply athletics.

“It’s about bringing together our athletes, with community members, with partners, with their peers. to really understand what it’s like to feel included and be part of a community,” said Katelynn Howell, director of development for Special Olympic Virginia. “So we do that through sports, but then we do it through events like this here today at the plunge.”

Groups of participants traveled from all around the area in costume for their cold plunge.

The Pulaski County Plungers, who have been taking the plunge in the New River for more than ten years, were motivated uniquely.

“Rhonda Johnston was our team captain and very near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Leslie Houde, a member of the Pulaski County Plungers. “The community came together this year and showed a lot of support… she dedicated her life, both professionally and personally, to special education and to the Special Olympics.”

Johnston is the highest donor of this year’s NRV Polar Plunge. She raised $13,000 before to her death on January 2.

“We’re grateful to be able to participate and to be able to be out here today,” said Houde. “Doesn’t matter what the weather is. We’ll always be here to support Special Olympics and to remember it and honor her.”

According to Howell, this Polar Plunge was the last one conducted in the area, and it ended successfully.

“This event has been going on for years. And this is by far the biggest turnout we ever had,” emphasized Howell. “New River embraces this event, not only to raise funds for Special Olympics but also to just show what inclusion is all about and coming together for greater cause.”

The NRV Polar Plunge helped Special Olympics raise almost $95,000 in total.

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