PRSSA preps for Plunge

Liberty students to help raise money for Special Olympics

Liberty University students and the community of Lynchburg prepare to brave the icy waters of Camp Hydaway Lake during the Hill City Polar Plunge that will take place Feb. 16, 2013.

Taking the plunge —Witherite said that snow flurries fell before last year’s event. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Special Olympics Virginia is teaming up with Liberty’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) to raise money for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Participants of this fundraiser must each raise $50 before traveling to Camp Hydaway to enjoy music, food and prizes as they muster the courage to jump into the frigid water.

Matt Camire, director of development for Special Olympics, said that the funds raised during the Polar Plunge go to things such as uniforms, travel expenses and sporting events for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics.

“All of our athletes compete completely free of charge in Special Olympics, and everything’s paid for through fundraising events,” Camire said.

According to Camire, the organization raised more than $20,000 last year.

Olivia Witherite, a junior at Liberty as well as the firm director for PRSSA, said that the Polar Plunge is about more than just raising money for intellectually challenged individuals.

“The reason that we’re doing this is that if Special Olympics athletes can overcome what they do in their everyday life — they have to go through a lot just to participate in events like this — you can do this,” Witherite said. “You can do this as a symbol of standing with them and helping them go through this.”

Camire said that he believes that taking part in this fundraiser reflects the courage of Special Olympics participants.

“You have to be brave to jump in freezing cold water, just like our athletes have to be brave every single day of their lives to go out in the public with their disability and be themselves,” Camire said.

Junior Karen Jeffers also has a strong connection to Special Olympics. Plunging for the second year in a row, Jeffers has a 17-year-old sister with Down Syndrome.

“My sister is on a Special Olympics cheerleading team, and the faces of the girls when they get their uniforms are priceless,” Jeffers said. “The money is used for things that make them feel really special.”

Camire said that he has been completely humbled by the attitudes of those participating in Special Olympics and wants to be able to serve them in any way he can.

“Sports are just our vehicle … to show the world and to show society that our athletes are really no different than you and I, without disabilities,” Camire said.
For more information on this event, visit

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