Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 6:54 am | Fair 43º


Santa Barbara Polar Plungers Get to Freezin’ for a Special Olympics Reason

Public safety, criminal justice teams jump into the ocean off Leadbetter Beach in 3rd annual fundraiser for local Special Olympics athletes


South Coast residents jumped into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday for the third annual Polar Plunge, enduring the chilly water in a benefit for the Special Olympics Southern California-Santa Barbara Region.

Knee-high, waist-high or all the way under the water — the goal of the noontime plunge was to raise $20,000 to support and provide programs for local Special Olympic athletes.

The funds help provide year-round sports training and competitions for more than 600 athletes from the greater Santa Barbara region, said Gina Carbajal, regional director of Special Olympics Santa Barbara.

“The event is important on two levels,” she told Noozhawk. “It provides our athletes the ability to engage with various groups and individuals who support Special Olympics.”

Saturday’s fundraiser got underway at Leadbetter Beach with about 100 donors feasting on a pancake breakfast.

Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County firefighters supported the cause by running into the sea and providing breakfast for attendees.

“This is a great event, and we love to be part of the community,” said Tyler Gilliam, president of Santa Barbara County Firefighters Local 2046. “We are happy to contribute.”

Participants jogged toward the water with grins and some squealing in glee, which could barely be heard over cheering supporters and the applause of onlookers.

Two divisions of the Law Enforcement Torch Run ​— comprised of all local law enforcement agencies within the county — also participated. The torch run is the largest grassroots Special Olympics fundraising program and assists in hosting the Polar Plunge.

“This is a great opportunity to support Special Olympic athletes,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Calderon, a member of the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

The association donated $3,000 for Special Olympics athletes, he said.

The deputy sheriffs also raise money through Tip-A-Cop fundraisers, basketball tournaments and various other events.

“We support the Special Olympics all year long,” Calderon said. “We are happy to participate. If we aren’t doing everything we can, we aren’t doing enough.”

District Attorney Joyce Dudley and her team also participated in Saturday’s festivities.

The Special Olympics Southern California helps enrich the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through sports training and competition.

Event sponsors include the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Santa Barbara City Firefighters Association 525, Union Bank and MarBorg Industries.

Click here for more information about the Special Olympics Southern California-Santa Barbara Region. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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