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Hundreds take the Polar Plunge in Rochester

Rochester Post - 2/14/2018

ROCHESTER - The downpour of snow didn't stop hundreds of people from bravely plummeting into a pool of frigid water in downtown Rochester last weekend.

People from across the area took the dive to benefit the Special Olympics of Michigan during the Oakland County Polar Plunge at the Rochester Mills Beer Co.Feb. 10.

Taylor Baroli, development and event manager for the Special Olympics of Michigan, said approximately 142 supporters and 29 teams raised $64,641 for the cause during the Oakland County event this year. She said the organization will host 28 Polar Plunge events across Michigan through March.

"The Polar Plunges are our largest fundraiser series. Altogether our goal is $1.2 million throughout the entire state," Baroli said. "The reason we are raising this money is so that our athletes can participate in our programs at no cost to them or their families. Special Olympics Michigan provides sporting programs and competitions for people with intellectual disabilities year-round."

Participants dressed up in colorful and sometimes silly outfits - everything from swimsuits and tutus to uniforms and costumes - to take the jump, all while being supervised by emergency personnel, who watched closely to monitor the divers' health.

Jim Dunsmore and his team, dubbed "The Crazy Cats," wore purple T-shirts, tights and bandanas, along with gold polka-dot tutus, to take the plunge in honor of their friend, Celeste Wood, who has pancreatic cancer. They raised $1,500 for the Special Olympics.

"We all coach Special Olympics. I have 30 years of coaching," he said. "We all jumped individually last year, and we decided to jump as a team this year."

Dunsmore, who added a purple masquerade mask to his outfit, said the weather was a bit more cooperative this year.

"It's cold, but last year was a lot colder and the wind was blowing, so we are good," he said.

Ed Sudzina and his team from Raymond James Financial dressed up as Gru and Minions for the event.

"We're doing it because my assistant and my partner here, (Diane Nilo), has been an amazing volunteer for the organization, and she encouraged us to get involved, and we of course wanted to support her and the Special Olympics. We like to make sure that we are pillars in our community. It's one of our goals each and every year," Sudzina said.

This was the second year the team has participated in the event. Last year, Sudzina said, two team members made the plunge. This year, the whole management team decided to jump.

"Last year we tipped the toes in, and this year we are going out in force," he said. "What else would you rather do at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning when it's snowing and it's 15 degrees?"

Rochester Mayor Rob Ray took a break from the city's goals and objectives meeting to support the cause. Ray, sporting his bathing suit, belly flopped into the pool, despite it being nearly drained due to a miscommunication with event organizers.

"I looked up at Fourth Street, and the street was empty other than a couple of first responders, so I ran up there and I was going to check in ? but I had to make an executive decision," he said. "When I got in with the little step stool, I had to walk in to where the water was deep, so I kind of got a flavor of what it was going to feel like. The other people that dove jumped off of a wooden platform. I kind of knew what was coming."

The water, according to Ray, was "cold enough to take your breath away."

"What I didn't anticipate was 10 or 15 seconds after you hit the water and you get out, your body and your clothing (are) exposed to the wind and the air, and that sucks the soul right out of your skin," he said.

Ray said he is always up for a challenge and was happy to support the Special Olympics.

"It was for a good cause," he said.

The Polar Plunges are organized by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, made up of members of public safety and police departments, county sheriff's departments, state police and corrections officers. The organization raises funds and awareness and works with Special Olympics of Michigan athletes all year to promote acceptance and inclusion.

People who missed the Polar Plunge can support the Special Olympics of Michigan with a donation through April by visiting


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