Virginia Tech Police continue legacy of involvement with Special Olympics

The law enforcement community is a key supporter of Special Olympics

BLACKSBURG, Va. – The countdown continues to this year’s New River Polar Plunge which benefits the athletes and programs of Special Olympics Virginia.

The law enforcement community is a key supporter of Special Olympics, and the Virginia Tech Police Department has been involved with the organization for years.

Cpl. John Tarter, who is a part of VTPD’s Community Services Unit and is a Residence Life Resource Officer, now leads the charge for the police department’s initiatives involving Special Olympics. He said he has seen black and white pictures from the 1970s and 1980s documenting the department’s connection to Special Olympics.

He said checking out Special Olympics’ annual basketball tournament in Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech made it easy to see the organization’s impact.

“Watching the athletes play, they don’t really care if they win or lose, but the excitement and just seeing them and then seeing them around town as well. So that did it for me,” Tarter said.

The department shows its support for Special Olympics through a variety of events, from the Law Enforcement Torch Run to an annual hot dog luncheon that raises thousands.

“Last year the line was down the street,” Tarter said. “We couldn’t keep enough hot dogs. And they know that helps support and fundraise for Special Olympics Virginia.”

Virginia Tech Police say these community connections are key.

“When the time comes and the community needs to interact with us, they see who we are rather than just people in a badge,” said Virginia Tech Police Chief Mac Babb.

Many of the teams raising money for this year’s Polar Plunge are engaged in friendly competition with each other, but everybody knows the true winner is Special Olympics Virginia.

“You’re talking about supporting key pieces of our community that otherwise wouldn’t have opportunities if they didn’t have groups kind of rallying behind them to kind of create those opportunities,” Chief Babb said.

The Plunge team from VTPD is bringing a four-legged friend to the event.

“This year we’re going to have a police patrol pony that does community policing events with us. He is going to lead us to the water but he is not getting in the water whatsoever. But he is going to watch us,” Tarter said.

The 2023 New River Polar Plunge will take place Saturday, February 25 at Bisset Park in Radford. You can sign up to take the Plunge or donate to help achieve this year’s $72,000 fundraising goal by clicking here.


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