The winter fundraiser was presented by Toronto Police Services in support of Special Olympics Ontario.
The 2020 Polar Plunge was held in the Pitman Hall courtyard last week, giving students the “honour” of plunging into the chilly waters of an above-ground pool to secure donations for Special Olympic athletes.
Members of the Toronto Police Service joined Ryerson community members to take an icy dip following introductory remarks from president and vice-chancellor Mohamed Lachemi. “Jumping into freezing cold water for a great cause is a very Canadian thing to do and we’re happy to be a part of that,” said Lachemi, after announcing the school would be pledging $10,000 to Special Olympics Ontario in addition to Ryerson’s student fundraising.
Jocelyn McGillivray, a third-year sport media student, is a second-time participant in the fundraiser with a more personal connection to the history behind the event. McGillivray competed in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games for skiing in Lillehammer, Norway, and has been an active supporter of “all types of Olympic games” since.
McGillivray is also the sole participant from Ryerson’s Alpha Pi chapter of the Kappa Beta Gamma sorority, which supports Special Olympics as their international philanthropy. Every sorority chapter across Canada and the U.S. hold events each year to raise money for the organization.
James Gibson, a first-year business management student, was eating in the Pitman Hall cafeteria when he saw the sign for the Polar Plunge. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s not everyday you get the chance to get super cold out in the Pitman quad,” he said. Gibson is one of five other students living at the Pitman Hall residence who participated in the plunge as a group. “As soon as your head goes underwater, you know what you signed up for,” said Gibson. “I’m definitely awake now.”
Mallori Arizala, a co-op student for the Toronto Police, said she believes in both raising money and awareness for the Special Olympics. “I feel events like these will give people more of a chance to support them [Special Olympics] as much as they support the traditional Olympics,” said Arizala.
The fourth-annual plunge was presented by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest grassroots campaign to benefit Special Olympics. Constable Ryan Park has been the Law Enforcement Torch Run coordinator for the past four years and was one of many officers and law enforcement professionals that participate in the plunge on a yearly basis.
“This is a completely new experience in that, we are filling up an outdoor pool in the middle of a city,” said Park. “We are attempting to change the norm and try something different to engage the students and faculty at Ryerson.” The plunge conventionally takes place in Lake Ontario and has been for the past three years.
Leslie Koski, police chief Mark Saunders’ correspondence coordinator, has been the Law Enforcement Torch Run Committee co-lead for the past 13 years. “We really want to network and just get what we’re doing out to the public as opposed to always fundraising,” said Koski.“Many people don’t know that police services worldwide are the main source of funding for Special Olympics and without our services there would be no organization.”
Police services across Ontario have raised approximately $420,000 in funds, setting an initial goal of $600,000 with more plunges still to come throughout March and early April. Since 2015, the Ontario Polar Plunge has raised over $1.5 million for Special Olympics, an organization devoted to year-round sports and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.