Take the Polar Plunge – kids will love you for it

Ed Troyer wanted me to go jump in a large, cold body of water.

Would a pothole do? I asked, because my close personal friend Tacoma Weekly celebrity Pothole Pig knows Tacoma’s bottomless pavement like the back of his little cloven feet.

No such luck.

Troyer had Puget Sound in mind, the part that laps up against Owen Beach.

Here is the thing about Troyer. He is a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department detective, and the public information officer who guided us through the massacres of four Lakewood police officers and Susan Powell’s two little boys. He is on the board of CrimeStoppers. He organizes Toys for Tots. He scrounges decommissioned emergency vehicles and drives them in caravans to Mexican towns that have never before had a fire truck. He helps run and fund Charlie’s Dinosaur, which gives pajamas and toiletries to kids going into foster care. Now he is pushing Polar Plunge to benefit Pierce County’s Special Olympics, and he asked me to jump.

How high, Ed?

The year-round Special Olympics program has been part of the great change in the way people with developmental disabilities participate in American society.

My late sister-in-law, Kathy, and I were born in the late 1940s.

When I was growing up, I never met a kid with Down syndrome.

She was born with it, and her story explains my experience. Her family’s doctor, who referred to her as Mongoloid, recommended sending her to The Rainier School and hoping for better luck with the next kid. That is what people did back then.

Feb. 23 at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park. Check-in runs from 9-11 a.m., with people jumping in the water at noon.

Not my in-laws. They cherished Kathy, and they joined the movement, mostly of moms, who fought for spots in public schools for kids with special needs. When the kids grew older, these parents founded group homes and lobbied for job opportunities at sheltered workshops.

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics was part of that revolution.

Its motto, “Changing lives through sport,” gets to the serious work it does year-round. Parents tell of children who, when they learn to swim, or ski or skate, find freedom and confidence. They talk about the joys of being an ordinary soccer mom to an extraordinary child.

Kathy was more of a bowler, a social monarch butterfly. Through Special Olympics she broadened her circle of friends. Kathy was one fun-finding woman, and Special Olympics was a big part of that fun, especially in late spring at Fort Lewis at the statewide games.

Washington’s annual Special Olympics extravaganza brings 2,000-plus athletes and twice as many families and volunteers to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This year, the dates are May 31-June 1.

An annual distillation of sweat, humor, determination and joy, it celebrates victory and participation and does not really recognize, much less agonize over, defeat.

Participants compete in swimming, track, cycling and team sports. They enjoy an athletes’ village, barbecues, a big dance, and they catch up with old friends.

It was one of the highest of the high points in Kathy’s year. So I am honored to pitch in – even jump in – to help pay for this summer’s games, and all the other Special Olympics activities year-round.

But Troyer wants more.

He suggested that I get friends to run into Puget Sound with me, each with at least $50 in sponsorships. He suggested a Tacoma Weekly team. He suggested that we use the Weekly to recruit readers to join the Disaster Divas, WasteConnections, VC Hypothermiacs and Charlie’s Dinosaur.

Naturally, we jumped.

Here at the Mighty Weekly, we are 17 strong. About half will plunge, and half will cheer and give money.

That leaves plenty of shoreline for you, Gentle Reader. Consider this your invitation to join the Tacoma Weekly Strong Polar Plunge Freezin’ for a Reason team.

Click onto Polar Plunge’s website at tacoma2013.kintera.org, follow the directions and enlist. There is a Chicken Coop alternative, for non-jumpers. Everyone, wet and dry, who signs up and rustles $50 in sponsorships gets an event T-shirt, so start bugging friends.

Polar Plunge will take place on Feb. 23 at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park. Check-in runs from 9-11 a.m. A costume contest is at 11:30 a.m., with people jumping into the water at noon.

But wait! There’s more!

Tacoma Weekly Strong members will receive first-edition Pothole Pig T-shirts, printed expressly for this occasion.

Be the first on your block! Not available in any stores!

They will also launch Tacoma Weekly’s Next Big Drive. It will be cuddlesome, yet clean. It will be artful, yet compassionate. It will have dinosaurs.

Tune in next week, to find out more about how you can be what’s right with Tacoma, not to mention Fife, Milton and unincorporated Pierce County.

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