RADFORD, Va. – The biggest fundraiser for Special Olympics in Southwest Virginia takes place on Saturday, and hundreds of people are ready to be freezin’ for a reason and take an icy dip into the New River for a great cause.
The annual New River Polar Plunge returns in-person at Dudley’s Landing at Bisset Park in Radford. The 2021 event was held virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m excited that this year we’re not going to be in a virtual setting. We’re able to come out. We’re able to just network and just see the community all come together again,” said Sgt. Emily Hite, community outreach and crime prevention specialist with the Radford City Police Department.
Hite helped to get the Polar Plunge started in Southwest Virginia. She said Radford had the perfect resources for it.
“Obviously here we have the New River,” Hite said. “Everyone goes tubing on the New River. We have a lot of fun on the New River. Why not embrace it?”
That was her inspiration 13 years ago as she and others brainstormed ways to give back. Add in Special Olympics, support from Radford University alumni and the law enforcement community, and the idea for the New River Polar Plunge was born.
“When we first started I’m like, ‘I have no idea how many people are going to come out,’ and then just the support and then the alumni that come back every year to do this event, and then bringing money to the athletes just here in our region,” Hite said.
Money raised for the Plunge supports local programs that offer athletic, health and leadership opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
“A lot of times they feel like they’re not included in things,” Hite said. “I would much rather be a coach, a volunteer, and everything you get out of it just to be able to have these athletes be able to compete in all different kids of events: swimming, running and the track events that they do at RU. It’s just amazing.”
The Radford City Police Department also participates in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics each summer.
The 2022 New River Polar Plunge is Saturday, February 26. Click here for more information, including how to sign up or donate.