Take the plunge, for a good cause!
Every January 1st for the past 16 years Dunleavy's Pub on Sullivan's Island has invited Lowcountry residents to come and take the plunge, for a good cause.
Since the Polar Plunge's partnership with South Carolina Special Olympics, 14 years ago, Dunleavy estimates the charity has raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000.
"It's such a simple thing to do but it's so much fun. When you look at a couple thousand people with smiles on their faces and you see they're just having fun," Dunleavy added. "It's just great to see friends and families together for this family-fun event."
"It has turned into a tradition for not even just the local people but we also have people who come from out-of-state for this event," said Dunleavy's nephew and co-owner of Dunleavy's Pub, Jamie Maher. "They say it's part of their own family's traditions now."
Since 2003, South Carolina Special Olympics has partnered with Dunleavy's and has served as the primary beneficiary of all the Polar Plunge proceeds.
"We are tremendously grateful to be the beneficiary of the plunge because there are lots of wonderful charities," said Development Director of South Carolina Special Olympics, Sandye Williams. "And to be able to interact with the public, educate them about our mission and earn funds for our athletes at the same time.
The official amount raised in donations, in-person and online, will be collected and counted this week in Columbia and will be reported as early as next week, according to Dunleavy.
Dunleavy's Pub is located at 2213 Middle St. on Sullivan's Island.
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, SC (WCBD) – Ring in the new year with a dip in the icy ocean!
Help raise money for the Special Olympics of South Carolina and have a blast plunging into the ocean this New Year’s Day.
The annual Polar Bear Plunge will take place on Tuesday, January 1st from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Participants will meet at Dunleavy’s Pub on Sullivan’s Island for food, drinks, fun and the plunge!
* Dogs are allowed but must remain on a leash at all times in accordance with the Town of Sullivan’s Island Dog Ordinance.
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND - Though it was more than 60 degrees on Sullivan’s Island, hundreds of people still had to brace themselves Sunday before running toward the ocean until their bodies were mostly submerged in chilly, salt water.
The energy in the crowd provided a bit of bravery, said Brent Clauser, a first-timer at the annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge behind Dunleavy’s Pub.
A Pennsylvania native, Clauser was encouraged to do the plunge by his fiancé, Virginia Wininger, a Charleston native.
“He thought it was just a couple of people running into the water, so he didn’t realize what a big deal this is,” Wininger said about her fiancé, as the crowd volume increased.
Wininger has done the plunge a few times and said she wanted Clauser to experience it.
“It gets pretty crazy but it’s always fun,” she said.
For more than a decade, the Polar Plunge has raised about $40,000 a year for Special Olympics South Carolina.
Sandye Williams, the marketing director for the organization, said the Dunleavys allow the group to host the plunge each year. They’re able to sell T-shirts, food and drinks, and take donations.
The money is used to help more than 24,000 Special Olympics athletes who compete in 26 different sports.
“Our athletes do everything from tennis, to golf, swimming and basketball,” Williams said. “We need funds to keep this program running and people are always so supportive. The event is just fantastic.”
Williams added that the plunge often seems like a festival, proven by the wide range of outfits, including black-and-white cow costumes, pink bunnies and various others.
Even with the festive nature of the event, the actual plunge, though very short, still dominated the afternoon. The countdown began seconds before 2 p.m. hit. Then, the crowd of participants ran toward the water as their family and friends cheered on.
“It was awesome … cold and freezing, but it was good,” said Johnny Gush, immediately following the plunge.
Gush said he and his friends had done the plunge multiple times before. This year brought the same level of excitement, he said.
“It’s still a shock when the water first hits you,” Gush added. “But it’s always a fun experience.”
Mother Nature is on the side of Special Olympics. The 25th annual Dunleavy’s sponsored Polar Plunge saw record attendance as the sun shone down on swimmers and spectators alike. The event raises funds for the South Carolina Special Olympics and this year was a huge success.
“What spectacular weather we had right? 50° warmer than last year! Attendance was tremendous,” exclaimed Sandye Byers Williams, Director of Marketing and Development for Special Olympics South Carolina, Area Six, which encompasses Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
2018 brought frigid temperatures that had participants running from the water, some with tears in their eyes. This year was the epitome of a winter day in Charleston with 70° temperatures that made the retreat from the ocean a pleasurable bask on the beach. And they did. The crowd lingered in bathing suits and costumes, and enjoyed the sunshine.
The favorable weather brought more participation, which in turn raised more money for the cause. The annual event, which is expected to raise about $20,000 for the tri-county Special Olympics brought in a whopping $29,327 this year. Made all the more meaningful because the event is free to attend and participate in, donations are suggested, and encouraged.
Even Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neil got in on the action, taking his turn in the waves dressed to the nines in the Dunleavy uniform of a green and white tuxedo. “I’m an honorary Dunleavy for the day,” the Mayor exalted.
While manning the t-shirt table, Williams laughed at the misconception most people have about the Special Olympics. “The biggest misconception is that we are a one day a year big track and field event. When people meet me and they learn that I work for Special Olympics, the first question they ask is ‘when is it?’ To which I answer, ‘it’s pretty much every day!’”
The tri-county Area Six offers thirteen sports for children and adult athletes with intellectual disabilities including golf, kayaking, sailing, soccer and tennis.
“We have over 29,000 athletes participating interstate which makes Special Olympics South Carolina the eighth largest program in the country even though we are only 24th in population,” explains Williams. “We will host over 400 competitions around the state this year. Here in our area we have a track meet, a swim meet, a basketball tournament, and our big area spring games coming up in March and April.”
In addition to competitive athletics, Special Olympics offers ongoing programs including the Healthy Athletes program which provides health screenings and services to their population and Project Unify which is in 300 schools in SC, teaching and fostering respect and inclusion on campuses.
“And we will be sending a team to Abu Dhabi in March for the Special Olympics 2019 world games!” adds Williams, whose enthusiasm and commitment is authentic. Her brother Eddie is an accomplished Special Olympian.
In addition to the Polar Plunge, which has become a longstanding tradition on Sullivan’s Island, there are other fundraisers for Special Olympics Area Six throughout the year.
“We have a huge fundraising event coming up on May 4: The 19th Annual Bocce Bash. We’ll raise about $100,000 and it’s considered to be the most fun charitable event of the year in Charleston by many! One-hundred twenty-eight teams of four play bocce on the Battery soccer field,” says Williams. On a beautiful spring day, what could be more fun than that?