Tabor Academy’s Below Zero Heroes

Hundreds of frozen toes will be jumping into the waves on the shoreline of Buzzards Bay – some in costume, some in bathing suits, some fully-clothed – at the Tabor Academy Polar Plunge on Sunday, January 22 to raise money for Special Olympics Massachusetts. The Plunge, organized and run by the Special Olympics Club at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA, will be an event for the entire family and the student organizers are rallying the local community to come out to support and join them.

Starting at 10:00am with registration, an 11:15am plunge, then right back to the 2000 square foot tent to enjoy food from local restaurants, lawn games and music. If you want a general-plungechance to meet the athletes you’re supporting, at 2:00pm you can make your way to gym for the Special Olympics Young Athletes program where children aged 2-7 will be working on their sports skills. It’s set to be a fun-filled day for all bringing the Special Olympics movement together with a fundraising effort and sporting event in one day.

Why plunge you might ask? “A polar plunge is the ideal fundraising event at Tabor for many reasons. With a perfect beach just down the road, Silvershell Beach and an excited student body, a plunge provides a fun opportunity to give back. There is nothing like jumping into freezing water with your friends,” says student and event organizer Christopher Mills. And giving back is certainly what they are doing. The Special Olympics Club is well on their way to reaching their fundraising goal of $5,000. One student plunger, Annalisa Souza, has already raised $1,000 and she still has a days to go. Souza says, “Fundraising was one of our top priorities when we first started putting things into motion for the Polar Plunge, because after all, the event is primarily to raise money for Special Olympics. To participate you must first raise a minimum of $50, but I made it my personal goal to raise as much as I possible could.”

Although this is their first year plunging, Tabor Academy’s relationship with Special Olympics began over a year ago when former student Molly Bent, who has a sister that’s a Special Olympics athlete, started the Young Athletes program at the school. “That program snowballed into a basketball tournament, then an R-word campaign and then a spring fitness event. Our students were jumping on every opportunity to pitch in. They couldn’t get enough time with the events and more importantly with the athletes. So this year we kept going. The Plunge is just one piece of our continuation of the work that Molly and other student leaders have started,” according to Tim Cleary, advisor for the Special Olympics Club. Cleary is a busy man on campus as Club Advisor, Sophomore Class Dean and Day Student Coordinator for Tabor. He, along with Bent, has been instrumental in bringing Special Olympics to the Tabor campus.

Tabor Academy’s involvement with Special Olympics Massachusetts has earned them the title of Special Olympics Unified Champion School. To earn that recognition a school must fulfill three requirements: provide unified sports which tabor-young-athletesthey do through their Young Athletes program; Youth Leadership which they achieve through their Special Olympics Club comprised of 130 students, almost one-third of their student body; and whole school engagement which involves the R-word campaign and of course this Plunge. But it doesn’t end there for the Tabor students. In 2017 they will be hosting their second annual Valentine’s Day Basketball Tournament, continue their weekly Young Athletes program and host a Unified Special Olympics Day in the spring. Each event and program is completely coordinated and run by students.

Being a part of Special Olympics not only benefits the athletes but has also benefits the students and school as a whole. Student volunteer Grace Ryan commented, “My involvement with Special Olympics has instilled in me the values of patience, empathy, and a fun loving spirit I could not have found anywhere else. Not only has the program made me realize how fortunate I am, it has made me recognize that everybody has obstacles, and what matters is not what differentiates us, but what make us alike.” According to Kat Mitchell student plunger and volunteer, “Special Olympics has had an extremely positive impact on our school, it has opened our eyes to the opportunities available for people with intellectual differences, and how we can help. Since we have started Special Olympics our school has become closer and more aware of our local community and, most importantly, we have gotten to know the athletes and their families.”

Show your support for these students who are making a difference! Go to http://taborplunge.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1166602 to register to plunge or support a plunger. If you want your school to become a Unified Champion School contact Patti Doherty Director of Schools and Youth Engagement at 508-485-0986 ext. 226.

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