Winter ocean dip raises funds for Special Olympics

Published 8:07 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

FRANKLIN—Local residents Barry and Pat Smith, along with their son Ethan, will participate in Saturday’s Polar Bear Plunge in Virginia Beach.

For the past five years, the Smiths have been participating in the event, which has a goal of raising money to fund Special Olympics of Virginia’s year-round training and sports programs geared toward both children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

According to Pat, the family got involved because of their son, Ethan, who is autistic.

“We started getting involved with Special Olympics because Ethan needed an outlet to be able to do things with people who he could relate to,” said Smith.

Area 29 Suffolk program director Michael Clark said Pat Smith has become the “backbone” of the program since she’s been working with Special Olympics.

Area 29 serves Franklin, Suffolk, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.

“When we started the program, she was our first coach,” Clark said. “In that time, we’ve grown from two athletes to about 70. She takes a lot of the load off of my back handling administration and organization.”

Smith has even recruited some of her co-workers to participate in the plunge. Co-worker Jeanette Everette and her husband M.L. of Capron will take the dive with the Smiths on Saturday.

“When she first asked, I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ But, the more I thought about it, I figured it would be fun,” said Everette.

Everette said Smith’s passion has inspired her to get involved.

“I knew nothing about the Special Olympics before. Pat has been a wonderful teacher and I have developed a great appreciation for the program,” she said.

Smith said she is excited about Saturday’s events and said the show will go on regardless of the weather.

“They are predicting about 65 degrees, but we plunge rain or shine,” she said.

Smith also wanted people to know that there is still time for more plungers to volunteer or donate funds. “Everything we raise comes right back to our area to help our local athletes,” said Smith.

Anyone interested in donating to Area 29 Suffolk Special Olympics or interested in participating, can contact Pat Smith at (757) 630-8919.