Cornell students and staff from Donlon Hall run into frigid water for the 2022 Polar Plunge

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Where Freezin’ for a Reason and Doing the Greatest Good Meet

Late last month groups of students from across campus came together to participate in the Ithaca Polar Plunge and, in doing so, helped to raise more than $85,000 for New York State’s Special Olympics athletes, exceeding the organization’s goal by $25,000. Cornell student organizations that participated includes: Alpha Gamma Rho, Alpha Zeta Fraternity Cornell Chapter, Circle K at Cornell, Cornell Men's Soccer, Cornell Red Key, Cornell Swimming & Diving, Cornell Theta Tau, HYPE-othermia, PSK, Risley Squids, and Sigma Chi Cornell.

The Resident Assistant (RA) team hailing from Donlon Hall was the highest raising team within the College Cup Division and the second highest raising team overall. Brady Dolan ’23, a CALS student, his fellow RA, Mary McNamara ’22, an engineering student, and their Resident Housing Director (RHD) Darius Cureton worked hard to raise this money that helps nearly 200 athletes continue to engage in the sports they love.

Brady, a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics, was excited when the opportunity to engage with the Ithaca Polar Plunge presented itself, and was excited to build community in Dolan Hall around the cause and event. Mary, formerly a coach for a Special Olympics gymnastics team in her hometown, tells us she “fell in love with the program and the individuals I got to work with” when she was in high school. Disappointed the pandemic restrictions kept her away from the program, she was thrilled when Brady mentioned his plans to participate in the plunge – and she dove in to help organize their team and fundraising efforts.

A bedrock in raising the money? Darius. Darius agreed to a donation game that included a series of challenges he had to complete if the students hit donation thresholds. When the team raised $2,500, Darius had to sustain water balloons thrown at his person, and when the team crossed the $5,000 line, Darius had to take the plunge himself. 

Participating was fun, and it was rewarding. “After every Polar Plunge that I participate in, I feel truly honored to be part of something so much bigger than myself,” Brady says. “I am overjoyed every year to help the Special Olympics athletes be able to participate in something they thoroughly enjoy.” This year, Brady was especially touched when he overheard a mother speaking with her children, she said, “‘See all these people. They are doing this, so you get to go to that gym and practice for the Special Olympics. This is for you and all of your friends.’ Their faces lit up,” he says, “I would run into 47-degree water 10x over just to see those smiles again.”

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