Locals taking the plunge for Special Olympics Indiana

Brady Riley is participating in honor of his cousin, Andre Cozart, who died in 2019, and to represent the Seymour Fire Department.

Kristy Ramsey is motivated to participate by her son, Luke, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was born in 2017.

Charles Smith is willing to test his Michigan roots and cold endurance to support a good cause.

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson is ready to feel the sting of the cold water again after participating for the first time in 2020.

These four are on the Seymour Tsunamis team that’s signed up for the Special Olympics Indiana Polar Plunge on Feb. 20 at Deam Lake in Borden.

In the organization’s signature fundraiser, people have the option to take the plunge at one of the sites around the state in February and March or just raise money online as a virtual plunger.

To participate, a person must be at least 12 years old and raise a “bear” minimum of $75 ($50 minimum for students with a student identification).

Of the 22 people currently signed up for the Seymour Tsunamis, some, including Riley, Smith and Nicholson, plan to take the plunge, while others, including Ramsey, have opted to stay dry.

When organizers found out Nicholson was signed up last year, he was asked to be the torchbearer to kick off the Borden event, and he entered the water ahead of a group of Indiana State Police troopers.

This year, he encouraged each of the city departments to have a representative on the team.

Riley did so for the fire department.

“Programs such as Special Olympics offer a great opportunity for kids with intellectual disabilities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community,” Riley wrote on his fundraising page, as he challenged other local first responders to join in on this event.

Other city officials include Justin Kiel (parks and recreation department), Christina Engleking (city attorney) and Tim Toborg (police department). Also, Jay Fisk with Jackson County Emergency Medical Services took up Riley’s challenge to first responders.

The other team members include Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County athletes, county management team members, volunteers and supporters.

Special Olympics Indiana is a nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities ages 8 and up.

Fundraisers such as the Polar Plunge allow athletes to participate at no cost. There are more than 18,000 athletes in the state.

“I will be glad to feel the sting of cold water in February 2021 if you don’t want to, but I can’t reach my goal without your support,” Nicholson wrote on his page. “Want to plunge with me? Become a teammate by joining the Seymour Tsunamis team for Special Olympics. Either way, your support goes a long way to helping keep a great program going strong for our area athletes.”

Ramsey said she struggled with infertility for nearly a decade, so she was shocked when she gave birth to her first child, Claudia, in 2016 and even more surprised to find out she was pregnant again.

“Baby Luke came into this world just like every other human being, but he was born with something unique. Luke has an extra chromosome,” she said. “Although this extra chromosome can present its own sets of challenges, our family is beyond blessed with the opportunity of having our lives touched by this unique individual.”

Luke’s Country Inn in Dudleytown, owned by Ramsey’s sister, Misty Poole, and her husband, Terry Poole, is named in Luke’s honor. They all have been big supporters of the local Special Olympics program.

“I need you to help to support my efforts as an advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with special needs,” Ramsey wrote on her fundraising page. “Any amount of effort to help on any scale is greatly appreciated. Your help and support matters. You can make a difference. We all can make a difference together.”

Smith has set his fundraising goal at $1,000. He said when he worked at a bowling alley in the past, Special Olympics athletes practiced there.

“I loved their enthusiasm and teamwork, cheering each other on,” he wrote on his page. “I am honored and humbled to be able to give back a little bit … to freeze and raise some money to help out.”

Donations can be made to team members online at secure.e2rm.com/p2p/fundraising/348724/team/932185. Also at that link, people can join the team and set up their own fundraising page, either to take the plunge or just collect online donations.

There also are Polar Plunge canisters at 11 Seymour businesses for people to drop in cash and coins, and the team is seeking approval from the city to conduct a roadblock from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at Second and Walnut streets in downtown Seymour.

This will be the third year in a row for Jackson County to have a team participate in the Borden Polar Plunge.

Last year, the Seymour Tsunamis turned in $2,967 for Special Olympics Indiana, and at least 50% came back to the county program. They were among 404 plungers on 35 teams that set a record with more than $109,000 raised.

Statewide, records were set with more than 3,500 plungers and $920,000 raised.

Those funds allowed Special Olympics Indiana to find new and creative ways to engage athletes and volunteers after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the Summer Games, sports and other activities in 2020.

Each of the 13 Polar Plunge sites will look different this year with no spectators and safety protocols in place.

“We’re counting on you to help ensure that our virtual and in-person programs will continue to thrive in 2021 and beyond,” Special Olympics Indiana wrote on its website.

At a glance

Donations can be made to the Seymour Tsunamis Special Olympics Indiana Polar Plunge team

Online: Visit secure.e2rm.com/p2p/fundraising/348724/team/932185 and select a team member to support

Canisters: Cash and coins can be donated at the Seymour businesses This Old Guitar Music Store, CPR Cell Phone Repair, The Magic of Books Bookstore, Popsey’s Electric Tattooing Co., Townhouse Cafe, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurante, Schuler Bauer Real Estate Services, Bubba’s Place, Freedom Flea Market, Reed’s Place: Steak and Chop Shop and Rails Craft Brew and Eatery

To arrange another way to donate, call 812-595-9162.

For information, visit polarplungein.org or facebook.com/jacksoncountyspecialolympics.