Special Olympics Arkansas invites residents to support its athletes by participating in two fundraisers on Saturday, Jan. 28.
The organization will host a Polar Bear 5-kilometer run/walk to raise money for Area Nine Special Olympics. Area Nine serves Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant, Arkansas and Perry counties. Special Olympics provides organized sports activities for special children in those areas.
The Polar Plunge involves people wading into Lake Langhofer at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park to raise money for Special Olympics Arkansas and to fund softball state championships, basketball state championships, swimming and other competitions.
“It is not a natural urge for people to throw themselves into freezing waters,” Travis Chisom, director of Special Olympics Arkansas Area Nine, said. “Those who do are die-hard Special Olympics supporters. They willfully do it. I cannot say we do anything to entice them. It is part of the great volunteers of our country. Because not everyone wants to jump into the frigid waters, we came up with the 5K run.”
To assist plungers, there will be men’s and women’s tents set up next to the lake to allow people to change into warm, dry clothes. There may also be butane heaters inside the tents if the temperature is 20 degrees or colder, Chisom said.
“I would like to highlight the importance of the volunteers who support Special Olympics,” he said. “They give their time to make these events happen. I cannot praise our volunteers enough. We would not be able to do these events without volunteers.”
Special Olympics Arkansas serves 15,000 people and District Nine serves 600 people. They excel in track and field, bowling, basketball and softball.
The organization’s vision is to transform communities by changing lives through the years.
“The special children of Arkansas do not get the exposure to the public of their sports activities as normal children do,” Chisom said. “We make sure special kids are recognized as athletes. This activity makes them feel better about themselves.”
The organization supports a societal change that coincides with using certain words to refer to Special Olympics athletes and avoiding other words.
“One goal is to remove the word ‘retarded,’” Chisom said. “It is a label that disparages people who have no choice. We want them to be included as a productive member of society. They are no different than you or I. They look forward to participating in athletic endeavors.”
Chisom added: “We know that we do not see all the afflicted athletes I am sure there are more but we are always in search. We provide these activities at no cost to their families.”
The organization will also be teaming up with the White Hall School District on Thursday, Feb. 16. White Hall students will host Special Olympic athletes who will showcase individual basketball skills, a competition for athletes who lack the ability to play a full game of basketball.
“They are graded or timed on dribbling, passing and shooting,” Chisom said. “At the end of the event, they receive gold, silver or bronze medals. Anyone may watch the competition. We are thankful to have the White Hall School District involved because their student-athletes time the event. If not for those athletes, we would not be able to do that event. It gives our athletes a chance to interact with their athletes, which benefits both groups of athletes.”
Those who wish to sign up may call Chisom at (870) 489-3881. Contribution sheets are available online at www.specialolympicsarkansas.org under the “Polar Plunge” tab.