By Neil Kavanaugh
A Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser was held this past Saturday at the Yards Park, it was a day filled with fun and unique activities made even better since it was for a good cause. The Ice Yards, named the “event of the winter season, with revelers enjoying an unparalleled afternoon”, according to the Capitol Riverfront website, teamed up with the national organization for the first time to raise money for Special Olympics.
The event featured ice sculptures, a cannonball contest, ice games, food from the local restaurants, and much more. With the purchase of a ticket, a person was given all-access to the event and, if they were of age, a complimentary beer or wine. Not only did the event have a live band, but there was a dance floor for all the patrons to show off their moves. The Ice Yards lived up to its name with an ice sculptor making a series of different sculptures, including a polar bear, a throne, and an ice board where visitors could write their names using an ice saw.
“My daughter and I decided to volunteer here because she needed hours for her bar mitzvah project and this caught her eye,” said first-time volunteer Heather Janssen. “It’s close to my heart because my parents used to volunteer here and I remember running around all the events as a kid, so I was glad she decided on this. We’re hoping to do more with them because this is a really great organization. I had some really great conversations with people who didn’t come for the polar plunge, but still wanted to show their support.”
“Quite a bit of work went into this,” said volunteer Nicole Preston, who has been running the Polar Plunge for many years. “We started planning months and months in advance for where it’s going to be and signing all the paperwork. After that it’s just recruiting lots of people to come and participate. Special Olympics is an important charity here in the city. We serve children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and the Polar Plunge has been one of the signature events for Special Olympics for many years.”
This is the first year that the Polar Bear Plunge was held in the Yards Park, as the previous location was the Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team.
“This location is a beautiful area and the capital waterfront has developed so nicely,” said Preston. “We have a great number of turnouts today and the event gives us exposure to a lot of people about our events and what we do. It is very positive for us.”
The Plunge was made possible through partner organizations including Wawa and 107.3FM, and hundreds of individuals raising money on their own. Team Brookfield, a group of 21 people, raised $39,500. Groom Law Group, a group of 16 members, raised $32,817. Individual participant Robert Sweenes raised $6,843. If you are interested in getting involved with the Polar Bear Plunge or would like to donate, more information can be found here.