Athletes Plunge for Athletes
The 50th Anniversary in 2018 was the pivot from the past to the future. The athletes of Special Olympics were once led by others, and now those athletes lead us into the future. That fact has become more and more evident in the last two years, and the current 2020 Polar Plunge season is a fine example.
When examining the 25 plunge events throughout the state of Illinois, the most popular, colorful, prominent figures, and often highest fundraisers will be athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. Because there are just too many athletes to choose from, we took a closer look at three that embody the “let me brave in the (plunge) attempt,” #BeBoldGetCold attitude.
One such athlete that instantly comes to mind is past Special Olympics Illinois Board member, who hails from Region F in West Central Illinois, Kaylee McLaughlin. When you think of Kaylee, an instant smile appears because a smile is definitely her trademark. One of Kaylee’s favorite memories as an athlete was when she spoke at the State Summer Games Opening Ceremony. If you listened to her speak, you could hear that smile in her voice. It is that same smile and glimmering attitude that has driven her to raise thousands of dollars over the past four years at the Galesburg, Macomb and Rock Island plunges.
Kaylee has been a Special Olympics athlete for ten years and has competed in bocce, track and field, bowling, flag football, volleyball, basketball, snow shoeing, golf and softball. Kaylee’s list of unique efforts to raise money for the Polar Plunge is as extensive as her list of sports. From producing live videos every day for 100 days leading up to the plunge, to selling gnomes, bracelets, and coasters, to giving handwritten letters as thanks for donations, to distributing plunge flyers and photographs of her plunging to 200 local businesses this year, there is no shortage of great ideas. When asked what one of her favorite fundraising ideas was, Kaylee said, “What I did one year was to tell my online viewers that if my dad hit the very large goal my mom and I set for him, he would plunge in my prom dress! Guess what? We have funny pictures of my dad wearing a pink dress!”
Heading down to Southern Illinois to Region J, we meet a newcomer of the Polar Plunge, Saneatha Trice. Saneatha, though, is certainly not a rookie of Special Olympics Illinois, as she has been competing for seven years in swimming, softball, bowling, volleyball, basketball, and snowshoeing. Two of her brightest achievements both came last year in gymnastics when she made the trip to the USA Games in Seattle, and then achieved a Gold Medal at the World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE!
As a plunger, Saneatha jumps in the unique chilly dip in Belleville, Illinois labeled the “Dumpster Plunge.” Plunge participants jump in one end of a very long and spotlessly-clean dumpster, and work their way down to the other end. This particular plunge is a favorite amongst many because it is so unique, and Saneatha enjoys the experience. Along with plunging, itself, as one of her favorite memories, she claims that her ultimate best memory was when she had the chance to meet and take a picture with the St. Louis Blues mascot, Louie!