Taking the Plunge

The Delaware Special Olympics is urging anyone who dares to “Be Bold, Get Cold” and support the organization’s annual Polar Bear Plunge taking place on Sunday, February 5. Curiously, while the event takes place in Rehoboth Beach, it actually stemmed from a collaboration between the Special Olympics Delaware and the Lewes Polar Bears Club.  

Special Olympics Delaware approached the Club in 1991 with the proposition of designating one of their plunges to benefit Special Olympics. The Club agreed to February, and the 1992 February Plunge was dedicated to Special Olympics Delaware. It was the beginning of what has become one of the most significant and successful fundraisers in the state of Delaware. The title on the web site is the Lewes Polar Bear Plunge.  

The Rehoboth location also is host to the Lewes contingent of supporters many of which are staffers or customers of local restaurants such as Eden and Jam.  

Running into the freezing Atlantic Ocean might make you shiver but the money raised is key to the success of Special Olympics programs that service more than 4,200 Special Olympics athletes.  

The Plunge may not be for the faint of heart but weekend is filled with a myriad of activities aside from the main event. Several Rehoboth restaurants are taking part in a chili contest and serving up their best recipes. The Atlantic Sands Hotel hosts “Fire and Ice”, an eating event that combines spicy wings and ice cream. There will be ice sculpting and sand sculpting demonstrations and even a 5K run for those who wimp out on the Plunge itself. Those willing to brave the icy water are called Bears who can take advantage from a variety of vender discounts being offered over the weekend. Participants and onlookers all are invited to take part in Plunge After Parties.   

More than 3,200 “bears” participated last year, raising $1.1 million dollars. Whether their temporary lapse in common sense is due to winter cabin fever or a dare from coworkers, they are there for the zany fun and knowledge that they are helping make a difference. They help make it possible for more than 4,200 athletes with intellectual disabilities participate in Delaware’s Special Olympics (SOD) each year, experiencing the joy of competition.  

There’s also the VIRTUAL OPTION where participants are encouraged to take the plunge in their own creative style. Backyard kiddie pools, water pistol fights, bucket dumpling and even an outdoor shower are encouraged! This option allows bears to control their own water temperature! Organizers hope this will encourage even those timid towel holders who watch from the beach to finally give it a try in the comfort of their own home. The more support…THE BETTER for this great cause. 

Registration for the BRAVE of heart is available HERE. Special Olympics offers a list of “Tips for Success”.  

Event organizers are also on the lookout for volunteers to help run the massive event. Click HERE if you are interested in volunteering.  

The event has raised more than $14.8 million in its history.  


By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

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Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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