Fun fact: While in England a year and a half ago, Ashley and I went to the traveling Titanic exhibit at the O2. Towards the end of the exhibits – right before you found out if the passenger you’d been “experiencing” the thing as lived or died – was a big ol’ slab of ice.
It’s purpose? To show you that THAT was how cold the iceberg was that night. THAT was why the water was so cold and just go ahead and see how long you could leave your hand on it before you lost all feeling in it.
I touched it. For about 10 seconds. And thought I was going to get frostbite. I believe I even said, out loud, something along the lines of regardless of what my passenger card said, had I actually been on that boat, I’d have just turned into a popsicle and died the second I hit that water.
I tell you that story to tell you this: in a little over two weeks, I am jumping (willingly….ish) into freezing water.
Unlike the movie (which I saw four times as a 13-year-old..OBSESSED), Leo won’t be braving it with me. And also unlike the movie, I (probably) won’t freeze to death.
I’m jumping in the disgusting Ohio River with one of my very best friends, Sammi, and my cousins Hope and Ethan.
It’s part of a Polar Plunge and it’s for a cause I’ve gotten increasingly involved in over the past year – Special Olympics.
It was about this time last year I was looking around for an opportunity to volunteer with an organization. I didn’t want to just donate money, or stuff envelopes, or organize/setup/move inanimate objects. I wanted to work with PEOPLE. Help PEOPLE.
Back in college, I was in a service-oriented sorority. Our main objectives were service hours and we got them a number of different ways. One of the things we did that stuck out in my mind more than just about everything else was the work we did with Special Olympics.
We’d gone to their state track meet in BG and volunteered with whatever they needed – whether it be awards, announcing or just encouraging the athletes. And I loved it.
I loved the smiles on their faces as they competed, how proud they were of themselves, how happy they were to see people cheering them on.
It was those memories that steered me towards the SOKY website last year. I looked around for a few minutes trying to find volunteer opportunities nearby and that fit in with my schedule, and there it was. Announcers and scorekeepers needed for the state basketball tournament, on a Saturday morning and afternoon near my house. Done and done.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
In the past 12 months I have been at every local event they’ve had – and even some outside of Louisville. I’ve worked as a scorekeeper at a basketball tournament, a “runner” at an equestrian tournament in Lexington, an announcer at a softball tournament and helped hand out awards at bowling tournaments.
My favorite thing so far, however, has been working the lanes at the bowling tournaments – where your job consists of making sure everyone takes their turn in the right order, and offering high fives and other encouragement to some amazing athletes.
That’s where I met Marcus. But more about him next time.
For now, I want to ask for your help. I know I do that often on here – for another cause, the Alzheimer’s Association, which has had an impact on my life. This organization, and the people involved in it, also has had an impact on my life, in a completely different way.
Have you ever found something you didn’t know you were looking for? Because that’s this for me. Being involved with this organization has filled my heart just about to bursting. My cheeks hurt from smiling when I go home from a Special Olympics event. It makes my heart so happy to have met these people, to be a volunteer for this organization, to be able to do something, anything to help them, even if it’s as simple as congratulating them on their last bowling frame.
As someone who used to only look at the negative in life, being involved with this organization just in the past year has made a huge difference in how I view my life and others’. It’s made me happier, it’s made me more positive, and for that alone I owe them the world. So jumping in freezing cold, dirty water for a couple of minutes? That’s the least I can do.
I’m raising money for Special Olympics, so that the kids and adults I’ve met and others like them can participate in a variety of activities that not only improve their physical fitness, but increase their confidence and self-esteem.
Last year I worked as an announcer during the state softball tournament. One kid waited to approach the plate every time he came up to bat. He was waiting for me to announce his name. And when I did, it was like he’d been announced at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field or some other major league baseball stadium. The feeling that gave him? The feeling that gave me, to see that I played a part in that happiness? You can’t get that just anywhere.
And it’s worth jumping into cold water a hundred times.
I’m going to do it once. For now.
And if that’s not your thing, there’s another way you can support me. Get involved. No matter what the cause, find something you care about like I care about this. It’ll change your life, I promise.