Williston polar plunge to help bring Special Olympics back to community

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 11:44 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 10:57 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - Williston hasn’t had a local “Special Olympics” branch for years. Despite this, the police department holds “Polar Plunges” in the hopes of bringing it back. For some community members, the program is very dear to their hearts.

Heather Cook is the Public Information Officer with the Williston Police Department. Her six-year-old son, Maverick, lives with autism.

“We’ve known for about four years. He goes to ABA Therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy,” said Cook.

Heather is one of many who will be taking a dive for the “Polar Plunge” on Saturday. For her, it’s about giving her son a chance to participate in activities.

“When we drop [our daughter] Riley off at gymnastics, he gets upset because he doesn’t get to stay and do it with her. It just gives him that opportunity that I think some kids may not have,” said Cook.

Through Special Olympics, people with disabilities are able to participate in several sports and compete with other athletes. Williams County Emergency Manager Mike Smith had two kids who were part of the program in Oklahoma.

“It was something that I think changed their lives and made them very happy. They were always excited to go to the meets and practices. They were with kids like themselves,” said Smith.

There’s extra significance in participating in this year’s plunge, as supporters look to bring the local program back.

“Any money we fundraise in the Williston area. It is set aside for our program. It hasn’t been spent for anything else. All of it will come directly back to rebuilding the program,” said Cook.

For both Cook and Smith, Special Olympics opens opportunities for people with disabilities, and provides social interaction through competition. With community support through events like the Polar Plunge, people in Williston may once again get that opportunity.

The Polar Plunge takes place Saturday at the Upper Missouri Valley Fairgrounds with a live auction at 11 a.m. followed by the plunge at 12:30 p.m. There will be food, entertainment and activities for all ages.

Everyone plunging must raise a minimum of $100 to “take the plunge” into the icy waters and various awards will be given for different categories including best costume, belly flop and youngest plunger.