Islanders take the polar plunge for Special Olympics

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Charlottetown Police Cst. Kristi MacKay, left, and Justin Drake take part in the  Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge in support of Special Olympics on Prince Edward Island.

DALVAY - While the wind was strong and temperatures were near freezing, a number of Islanders found a cause worth getting cold for here on Sunday.

Nearly 100 individuals gathered to take part in the second annual Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge in support of Special Olympics on Prince Edward Island.

While the plan was originally for participants to go into the waters on P.E.I.’s north shore, organizers had to make a change in plans due to this year’s long winter.

“The ice conditions on the north shore and in Dalvay Lake were so thick we had to come up with a workaround,” said Roger Steadman, provincial torch run coordinator and park warden supervisor with Parks Canada. “So we put some large tanks out that are used to hold water when forest fires are being fought and people jumped into those so it worked out really well… it was still pretty cold.”

The change in plans didn’t dampen the spirits of participants, many of whom had arrived in costumes that ranged from superheroes, hockey referees and wearing wigs with colorful clothing.

“It’s a nice spring day,” joked David Ling minutes after taking the plunge. “It’s a great cause. Worth getting cold over.”

Ling, who was on a team called the Polar Duck-Lings, with Linda Hontscharowicz and Tommy Ling, was dressed up as a medieval warrior complete with a sword and shield.

Hontscharowicz said the group was taking part in the event to support Tommy, who is a Special Olympian in skiing, bowling and track and field.

“I do it to support him,” she said. “We’re (also) doing it to support all of the Special Olympians across P.E.I.”

Steadman said there is a strong connection between law enforcement agencies worldwide and the Special Olympics, which began decades ago.

The Torch Run is an international event that began in 1981 when a run between Topeka and Kansas City raised more than $15,000 in support of Special Olympics.

Since then, the Torch Run has spread to more than 20 countries involving more than 97,000 law enforcement officers and has raised more than $7 million worldwide.

“It’s such a great program, the athlete are great people and law enforcement is just a natural fit to work with those athletes,” said Steadman.

Many who took the plunge on Sunday were police officers from various P.E.I. agencies, while Charlottetown city councilor Rob Lantz was named by Steadman as star candidate of the event.

Steadman noted that many of the athletes themselves had also taken the plunge.

“They contributed a lot to the event, it was great to have them here. We’re certainly going to continue. It’s been two great years and we’re looking forward to doing it in the future,” said Steadman. “It’s open to everyone so next year hopefully more people from the public can come out and participate because it’s open to everyone.”

Organizations: Special Olympics, Parks Canada, Polar Duck-Lings Special Olympians

Geographic location: Dalvay Lake, Topeka, Kansas City Charlottetown

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