Social Encore: Taking the plunge for charity
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
It’s officially spring, which means warmer weather. This weekend, however, Special Olympics will bring polar temperatures to Waterfront Plaza to raise funds for Hawaii-based programs.
Special Olympics Hawaii development manager Kyle Karioka has been with the organization for more than five years and said other states conduct fundraising efforts similar to Saturday’s Polar Plunge. In states like Wisconsin and Alaska, participants jump into ice-cold lakes.
Here in Hawaii, the first Polar Plunge took place in 2010 at a Kapolei waterpark, where a pool was filled with tons of ice. This year, participants will glide along an 80-foot inflatable water slide.
With fundraising events like these, participants are taught similar lessons to those Special Olympics athletes face every day, Karioka said.
“At Special Olympics, we challenge our athletes to do things that they think that they are able to do … and this event is a way for everyday people to challenge themselves,” he said.
Last year’s Polar Plunge raised over $40,000, Karioka said. This year, the organization hopes to raise $50,000.
“It’s sort of like a sacrificial thing,” said Karioka. “This one moment of cold for one person gives a lifetime of warm memories for our athletes.”
The Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics Hawaii’s annual games, with the summer games happening in May and consisting of swimming, power lifting, softball and track and field. Fundraising events like these helps cover year-round sports programs, meals, lodging, transportation, competition operations and more, making the experience free of charge for participating athletes.
The family event will feature all sorts of entertainment and games, with Kutmaster Spaz emceeing and providing the music. And if you love tailgating, there will be something similar set up for supporters and participants. “Chillville” will allow guests to talk story and meet new people.
If you decide at the last minute that you want to take the plunge, just show up to Waterfront Plaza and donate $100 for the chance to take a plunge in the icy waters. You’ll be rewarded with a T-shirt and bragging rights!
Among those scheduled to take the plunge are local TV anchor Olena Heu, Waterfront Plaza property manager Steve Sullivan and U.S. Army Garrison of Hawaii Emergency Services Deputy Chief/Director Antonio Williams.
For Hawaii Special Olympian Stephanie Zane, 47, nearly 40 years of competing started out with her learning about softball, swimming and basketball.
“I feel good when playing sports, it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I get to meet a lot of athletes from all different states and we do a lot of stuff together.
“In 2003, I went to Ireland for swimming and years ago went speed skating in Utah.”
Even though she is able to meet other athletes, she said people that help with Special Olympics and coaches like Paul Epstein really help make the event a weekend of fun, encouragement and friendly competition.
“This program helps me stay in shape and helps me to be strong,” said Zane. “It allows me to show people how strong I am while showing me what I need to improve on.
“Special Olympics has taught me to be myself. It has also taught me to a better athlete, to make new friends and to just enjoy.”
Karioka said he is inspired everyday to spread the word of Special Olympics because of all the positive opportunities that help transform Hawaii’s families.
“In addition to the physical benefits of participating in sports, it is also the friendships built between athletes and the relationships made between families,” he said.
Check out more pictures from last year’s Polar Plunge here.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.