URI police officer takes plunge for Special Olympics

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Frigid swim raises $23,000

KINGSTON, R.I.—March 12, 2008—Ready! Set! Plunge! University of Rhode Island Patrolwoman Erica Vieira joined with police, fire and corrections personnel from around the state March 9, to take a dip in the frigid waters of Easton’s Beach, in Middleton, R.I., for the Torch Run Polar Plunge. Approximately 80 individuals participated in the “plunge” that raised $23,000 to help support Special Olympics Rhode Island events and athletes in their training and competitions throughout the year.

Biting winds and 30-degree water temperatures were no match for the hearty souls who participated in the event. Vieira played a prime role in making the Torch Run Polar Plunge a possibility for the state. Vieira manages the URI Police Department’s involvement with the Special Olympics and her dedication and leadership were essential in making the event a success.

For several years Vieira has been participating in an event called the Torch Run, which is the actual carrying of the Olympic Torch across Rhode Island to kick off the Special Olympics Rhode Island State Summer Games. Members of police, fire and corrections departments are dropped off at the Statehouse and carry the “Flame of Hope” all the way to Meade Stadium on URI’s campus.

Last November, Vieira was chosen to attend the International Torch Run Conference held in Oklahoma City. While there she attended several seminars on how to raise money for Special Olympics, including a special event called the Torch Run Polar Plunge. She learned that Maryland sponsored a polar plunge that was extremely successful. “They were able to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000 just through the polar plunge. That’s phenomenal!” Vieira said. “ Once we returned from the conference, we formed a committee and set out to do our first annual polar plunge.”

The event is a unique opportunity to support Special Olympics athletes by taking a leap into the freezing ocean. Participants had to raise at least $50 in donations from friends, family and co-workers to participate. Vieira exceeded the minimum and her team, named Team Maxwell after her search and rescue dog, raised nearly $1,400.

“Special Olympics Rhode Island events happen all year, and I would really like to draw attention to the summer games that happen every year at URI,” Vieira said.

Special Olympics Rhode Island provides year-round training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 2,500 athletes are involved with Special Olympics across the state. Each year Rhode Island hosts more than 40 tournaments and competitions in 24 different sports, culminating with the statewide games at URI.

Individuals who would like to make a donation can either contact Vieira at 401-874-2121 or they can drop it off in an envelope with Vieira’s name and SORI written on it to 85 Briar Lane, Kingston, R.I. Checks should be made out to Special Olympics Rhode Island.

Vieira is also organizing the Torch Run Dance-Athon, which will be held Sunday, April 27. Participants will dance to the music of DJ “Off the Curb Hip Hop” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ball Room, 50 Lower College Road, Kingston. The DJ will play music from the 60s to present day. Prizes will be awarded at the end of each hour for best costume and dancer. Individuals need to raise a minimum of $50 to participate and donations can be raised online at www.firstgiving.com/sori.

Pictured above

URI Patrolwoman Erica Vieira prepares to take the plunge at Easton’s Beach, Middleton, with her search and rescue dog, Max. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.