by Peter Williams, grandfather of Special Olympics Young Athlete
My life and my family’s lives were forever changed on April 20, 2009 when my daughter Kelli told us our beautiful grandson Colin was born with an extra chromosome and Down Syndrome. Since then, my eyes have been opened to a world of love, caring, joy, accomplishments, disappointments and hope. Most importantly, I’ve learned how many friends and family members Kelli and Chris have that are there for them and Colin.
The CAT Crew (which stands for Colin Allan Tobin) was organized by Kelli and Chris’s friends, Jorie and Zach Gallagher. They had participated in the Polar Bear Plunge in prior years and thought it would be a great way to support the Tobin family, as well as raise money for Special Olympics New Jersey in honor of Colin.
The team soon took off after its creation in late 2009 for our first Polar Bear Plunge in 2010, and that number got bigger for the 2011 Plunge. Over 50 members joined our first team, with a larger number the next year. We are so proud of the fact that we have raised over $71,000 in two years for Special Olympics New Jersey. (Join or support the CAT Crew here)
My two years of fundraising has been an experience I will never forget. Everyone that responded to my request was unbelievably generous and had nothing but kind words to say about the plunge, Special Olympics, our team, and especially Colin. It was amazing how many people told me that they had either done the Polar Bear Plunge or had volunteered for Special Olympics at some time in their lives and how rewarding it had been for them.
My first plunge in 2010 was the most memorable, as it was on my birthday in March. It was the best birthday I ever had. Both years were a surreal experience, with the day full of warm sunshine, cold water, and just a mass of humanity on the beach. It brought tears to my eyes, standing there with my family supporting this great event for Special Olympics New Jersey, all for my grandson Colin.
When I was in the water, I was able to stand and face the beach. When I saw all the people in the water, on the beach and on the boardwalk, it was one of the greatest feelings I have ever felt in my life. I know that I will be doing this every year for the rest of my life with the CAT Crew, and each year will continue to get better as we share more and more experiences in preparing for that day.
From the early morning breakfast, to assembling on the beach, to the anticipation of the Plunge standing with our team and other teams, to the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, to the countdown, to the actual Plunge and finally the after-party for CAT Crew, are moments that make you feel that you are doing good for people.
Finally, I know that Colin being in my life has changed it forever, and by that I mean in such a positive way. I am more of a compassionate man in what I say and do, more understanding, more sensitive to people and their needs, and of having that feeling of wanting to do as much as I can for Colin, for the Polar Bear Plunge, for Special Olympics, and for any organization that supports Down Syndrome.
That is why I do the plunge and why it is now so important to me. I feel I am doing a part in helping people and society, and it is extra special that by raising funds for Special Olympics New Jersey, it will in fact benefit Colin in the years to come.
Take the Plunge
Want to take the Plunge? Go to http://www.njpolarplunge.org/ to join or create a team.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Seaside Heights Plunge, scheduled for February 23, 2013, has grown to more than 5,000 participants who travel from as far as California to be a part of the fun.
Radio station NJ 101.5’s Big Joe Henry, “the Voice of the Plunge” broadcasts live from the Aztec Ocean Resort, site of the Plunge, with interviews, updates and a countdown to Plunge you won’t want to miss.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the Plunge scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Wildwood Plunge will take place January 19, 2013 at The Wildwoods Convention Center. This Annual Plunge is catching on throughout southern Jersey and beyond. Complete with (warm) indoor facilities for registration and changing, the Wildwood Plunge has grown in popularity each year.
Registration opens at 10 a.m. with the Plunge scheduled for 1 p.m.