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The 2017 Philadelphia Polar Plunge was a huge success! Prep for the event happened on Thursday, November 30th to ensure that the water would be nice and chilly for Plungers. On Friday, December 1, 2017, more than 500 Plungers took to the water during three different plunge times. The first temperature reading of the morning was a refreshing fifty degrees. Chilladelphia, the Philadelphia Polar Plunge mascot, was out and about ready for photos and anyone who would challenge her to a dance-off.
Plunge day started with our Cool Schools Plunge where high schools from Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.Schools participating in this year’s plunge included Abraham Lincoln, Audenreid Charter, Cheltenham, Frankford, Furness, George Washington, High School of the Future, Lansdale Catholic, North Penn, Northeast, Parkway West, Philadelphia Academy Charter, Souderton High School, Strath Haven, Sun Valley, and Universal Daroff. Plungers in this session had a wonderful activity provided by HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) and led by peers from Northeast High School. During the activity, students learned how water is important for their health, decided on a way to increase their own personal water consumption, and how they can promote this message within their school. After plunging, our high school students and chaperones got lunches provided by Pagano’s Market and Bar as they headed back to school to thaw out.
After our high schoolers, we had our Business Plunge where business executives and government officials joined by some Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia athletes enjoyed a hot lunch provided by Pagano’s Market and Bar and hosted by John Clark, while mascots Franklin, Phanatic, and Swoop, entertained the crowd along with the Philadelphia Polar Plunge mascot, Chilladelphia.Clark introduced the keynote speaker, new Philadelphia Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, who gave a heartfelt speech on his move to Philadelphia, how transformative sports can be for everyone and his support for Special Olympics and everyone in the room.
The last group to take the plunge were our University students and the general public. CBS Radio personalities, Spike Eskin from 94WIP and Bennet from Today’s 96.5 kicked things off as the sunset, leaving plungers with a chilly night. Right before our plungers took to the pool, our ice sculpture artist took some chunks and added them to the plunging pool. After the plunge finished, participants continue the fun with a post-Plunge Splash Party at Wahoo’s!
SoulCycle Pass – Georgia Brantley
Philadelphia Soul Tickets – Bruce Carter
Philadelphia Theatre Package (Walnut Street Theatre & The Arden Theatre Company) – Brian Monihan
Signed Philadelphia Eagles Lane Johnson Photo – Michael Puma
Outside Philadelphia Theatre Package (Delaware Theatre Company &People’s Light) – Bruce Carter
Bread for a Year from Panera Bread – Tim McLaughlin
DICK’S Sporting Goods Gift Card – Tessa Dermoss
Yards Brewing Co. Gift Basket – Georgia Brantley
Target Gift Card – Jackie Lutts
PHILADELPHIA RUNNER Gift Card – Emmy
Shake Shack Gift Card – M Diaz
Philadelphia Phillies Photo & Rally Towel – Zisette Family
Philadelphia Phillies Scarf – Lisa Barbour
Wawa Gift Basket – Sarah DeNight
Photos on our Facebook Page
On Saturday, August 19th, we had a Shop and Share at Lilly Pulitzer in the King of Prussia Mall! Throughout the day, customers got to see Lilly Pulitzer’s new collection as well as get information about all of the amazing work we do in Philadelphia. Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia had a table with information and two photo books that display our Young Athletes program, Healthy Athletes, Leprechaun Run, Polar Plunge, our partnership with ESPN and MLS, and of course, all the sports we do!
Between 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm, athletes Katie Moore and Allie Ruitzer came to hang out, talk to customers, answer questions, and pose for photos! As customers made purchases, Allie and Katie took turns stopping customers on their way out to thank them for their support for sports, inclusion and Special Olympics!
Thank you, Lilly Pulitzer! We can’t wait to do it again!
On Thursday, June 29th, Abraham Lincoln High School‘s Unified Soccer team was invited to a Media Day with the Philadelphia Union in preparation for their Unified Exchange game on Saturday, August 5th against FC Dallas. In an ever-growing partnership with ESPN and MLS Works, Special Olympics participates in a Unified Exchange program which provides opportunities for Unified soccer teams to participate in a 1st Team MLS experience. Unified soccer teams, comprised of players with and without intellectual disabilities, travel from their home city to other MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches with their Special Olympic counterparts. In Philadelphia, our Unified Team becomes the Unified Philadelphia Union! Unified matches are scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches, providing MLS fans with an opportunity to witness first-hand the talents and abilities of Special Olympics athletes and unified partners.
The day did not end there! After getting official letters and jerseys, it was time to pose for official Philadelphia Union headshots and moving headshots in their new uniforms to be broadcast on the big screen on August 5th against FC Dallas’ United team. As if they could not be any more excited, the Lincoln team got to watch the first team practice – they were so inspired by their practice, they started practicing alongside them! As the sun started to bring the heat, our student-athletes got a chance to cool off with a tour of the players’ home away from home and toured the building that houses Philadelphia Union’s training, nutrition, and relaxation facilities used by the professional soccer players.
On the ride home, many athletes shared Lincoln striker, Brandon’s sentiment about how honored he was to be contracted by the Philadelphia Union and how excited he was to play in the Unified Exhibition in August. Kelvin, another Lincoln athlete, even remarked how today was the best day of his life!
Join us on August 5th as we watch Philadelphia Union take on FC Dallas and then stay afterward to watch the Unified Exchange Game! The Philadelphia Union/FC Dallas game starts at 7:00 pm and the Unified Exchange Game is right after (on the field!). If you purchase a ticket through this link, you will be sitting among the Unified Star Players! Tickets are $35.00 each and can be purchased here.
On Saturday, April 29th, Special Olympics Philadelphia held our 40th Annual Philadelphia Spring Games at William Penn Charter (3000 West School House Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19144) and it was an absolute success! We had a record-breaking event on numerous levels, including the number of counties hosted (six), the number of athletes competing, and celebrity and political representatives! It looked like it would be a cloudy day when it started, but as we were about to start the sun came out.
The day started at 8:00 am at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Flame of Hope was escorted by law enforcement from the Upper Gwynedd Township Police Department, Philadelphia Police Department, lead by Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson. Members carried the Flame of Hope from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to William Penn Charter. At 9:00 am, Opening Ceremonies began enthusiastically as athlete Allie Rutizer, and Sports Anchor for Comcast SportsNet, John Boruk emceed the morning. To lead the parade of athletes, West Powelton Drum Squad lead the way before we introduced athletes from Bethlehem City, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and of course, Philadelphia County. Besides athletic teams, basketball teams, and tennis teams, we also welcomed our Young Athletes, Gymnastics Team, and athletes from School of the Future and some of our bocce athletes. Athletes in the parade were escorted by members of the Temple University Football Team. After the athletes took their seats, a remarkable edition of the National Anthem was sung by a parent, Denine Aversa as Frankford High Schools Junior ROTC Color Guard lead by Cadet Kevin Olsen presented the colors.
Afterward, Director of Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia, Britt Kleine, spoke and introduced Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, who gave words of his support of Special Olympics, appreciation for everyone involved, and encouragement for the athletes about to compete. After Mayor Kenney spoke, Councilman Derek Green spoke and presented Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia with a Citation from the City of Philadelphia to honor the 40th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Spring Games. Opening Ceremony ended with the Flame of Hope being brought in by the Law Enforcement Torch Run and escorted by, retired professional boxer, Bernard Hopkins. After the excitement of the Flame of Hope arriving at the 40th Annual Philadelphia Spring Games, Allie and John kept the energy high by proclaiming the Games Open!
Athletes parted ways to partake in athletics (track and field), basketball, and tennis competition. As competition started, our VIP guests got to participate in a Unified Bocce Experience with some of our community bocce athletes as well as athletes from our Interscholastic Unified School, School of the Future. Two courts were set up and after a brief training for our VIP guests, the experience was on its way! Everyone who participated had a great time and athletes played alongside our VIP guests. Our Young Athletes who are not old enough to compete as an official Special Olympics athlete, showed off their skills at William Penn Charter’s playground as they completed an obstacle course that was set up especially to show off their skills.
Besides competition, the Olympic Village offered a place for athletes to relax and do some fun activities while waiting for their turn to compete. In addition, sponsor PriceWaterhouseCoopers was at the grill, firing up some burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches for spectators as well as selling some beverages and souvenirs. The day ended with athletes being awarded medals in order of their finish at their respective competition site. Everyone left happy, and for those athletics and tennis athletes – a little tanner!
Thank you to the coaches, assistant coaches, and families who helped all of our athletes prepare for the 40th Annual Philadelphia Spring Games! A huge thank you to all of the volunteers who made this day possible!
|Bad News Bears
Via Kristen Applegate YouTube channel on behalf of Temple University
On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, SOPA Philly hosted a Unified Bocce Demonstration at the School District of Philadelphia Head Quarters (440) in the atrium for all to see! The two winning teams from our Philadelphia Unified Bocce Championship championship that did not advance to Hershey – a team from Thomas Edison and another from George Washington, along with a team from Kensington HS joined us at 440 to take part in this fun day.
There was a small program prior to the demonstration where a partner from the George Washington team who played in Hershey addressed the crowd and shared their experience in Hershey, and then two athletes from Edison.
The Edison and George Washington teams played off against one another to demonstrate a skilled game and teammates from Kensington played alongside administrative personnel from within the school building who came down to experience the magic of Unified firsthand. Not only did administrative personnel come down to play, there was a crowd watching the showcase, including from the balconies above.
A Chilly Leprechaun Run Warms Hearts of Special Olympics Pennsylvania Philadelphia athletes and participants. The 2017 Leprechaun Run presented by TMNA Services was held on Saturday, March 11th at MLK Drive starting by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As runners arrived, the temperature was already a chilly 20 degrees. The cold weather didn’t stop over 750 participants from coming out to partake in this St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
The program before the race was kicked off by the Celtic Flame School of Irish who performed a traditional Irish dance for spectators. After a few short words from the Director of Special Olympics PA, Philadelphia, Britt Kleine, and VP of Development for Special Olympics PA, Eric Cushing, the running portion was about to start! The Lucky 7-Mile Race launched for the first time as it started alongside the Classic 5-Mile Race. Shortly after our racers took the course, our 2-Mile Fun Run/Walk participants headed for the course. As our Leprechaun Chasers finished, they were greeted by warm Philadelphia Pretzel Factory pretzels, Bai beverages, bananas, and water. After all the numbers were added up, the 2017 Leprechaun Run raised close to $40,000 for athletes right here in Philadelphia!
Thank you to all of our participants who attended this year’s race – we can’t wait to see you next year! HUGE thank you to all of our volunteers who made this race run smoothly; we hope to see you at more of our events!
Lucky 7-Mile Race
|13 and Under
Classic 5-Mile Race
|13 and Under
* Participants are eligible to win one award
On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, thirteen high schools came together for training to be student leaders in their respective schools at Special Olympics Philadelphia’s “I Have a Voice” Unified Youth Summit. The Philadelphia School District hosted the summit at their headquarters with support from HOBY, and The Philadelphia Foundation. Schools in attendance at the Unified Youth Summit were: Abraham Lincoln High School, Frankford High School, Furness High School, George Washington High School, High School of the Future, Hill Freedman High School, Martin Luther King Jr High School, Parkway West High School, Sayre High School, Simon Gratz High School, South Philadelphia High School, Thomas Edison High School, and Universal Audenried Charter High School.
The day started with opening remarks from President and CEO of Special Olympics PA, Matthew Aaron, Director of Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia, Britt Kleine. After opening remarks had been made, Brandon Velez-Roa and Kenny Brough from Abraham Lincoln High School shared how the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Program has it brought them together and made a huge impact on their lives. Superintendent, Dr. Hite, gave some remarks and inspired the students in attendance to learn as much as the could during the summit to continue making a positive change within their school.
The main part of the day was a presentation from by Kevin Grace, from Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). Kevin lead the students in exercises about working together and setting goals. At the end of the presentation, students constructively discussed issues in their schools and how they could implement change in those situations by creating a game plan that the could execute in the academic year.
Youth Leadership is one of the components of the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Program, a program that brings individuals with and without intellectual disabilities together to train and compete on the same sports team as well as make a change in their school through a Unified School Club. Through these clubs, students act as leaders and promote inclusion through Whole School Engagement Activites.
|Plunge during one of our time slots into one of our icy cold pools!
|Be the leader of your celebration (group of polar bears) and let the fun begin!
|Come be part of the fun, but stay on warm, dry land.
|Cool Schools Plunge for High Schools
10am – 12pm
|Business Plunge for Business Executives
12pm – 2pm
|General Public Plunge for everyone!
5pm – 7pm
|University Plunge for College Students