For the second year in a row, the Iona Prep “Plungers” have been named the top team in all of New York State for their fundraising efforts as part of the Special Olympics Polar Plunge. The Gaels raised $35,705 at the 9th annual Westchester Polar Plunge, with more than 100 students jumping into frigid waters at Glen Island Park on November 18.
Ryan Murphy, a senior from Yonkers, has participated in the Polar Plunge since he was a freshman, saying helping others not only feels great, but also means a lot – even if the water is close to freezing. “It’s really cold, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely worth it,” he said.
During a special presentation at the Upper School on Tuesday, Special Olympics New York Director of Development Kaitlin Brennan awarded the Iona Prep Plungers with their third “Cool School Challenge” trophy in as many years. She said the team’s fundraising will sponsor 90 Special Olympics athletes, who will now get to participate in any of the 22 different Olympic-style sports programs free of charge.
The Iona Prep Plungers have been first among all participating schools seven of the nine years since the Polar Plunge came to Westchester. Prior to 2016, the Gaels had also previously been tops among all participating Westchester teams in 2010 and 2011.
Pat Gray, an Iona Prep English teacher, not only moderates the Plungers club, but also takes the Plunge herself. The best part, though, is that the students do so much to spread the word about what the Special Olympics does for its athletes.
“I am extremely proud of the time and effort our students put into fundraising, as well as their openness to learn more about this wonderful organization and the athletes themselves,” Gray said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm with the kids and I just keep that going and try to do the best we can for these athletes.”