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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI patrolwoman to take plunge to benefit Special Olympics

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Erica Vieira organizing fund-raiser

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 9, 2009 – Close to 100 brave souls will take a dip in the frigid ocean water to benefit the Special Olympics during the Second Annual Torch Run Plunge Sunday, March 8, an event coordinated by University of Rhode Island patrolwomen Erica Vieira. The “plunge” will take place at Johnny’s Atlantic Beach Club in Middletown.

Last year’s plunge featured 80 participants and raised more than $23,000 to benefit the 2,600 Rhode Island athletes who participate in year-round sports training and competitions run by the Special Olympics. The event kicks off with registration at 10 a.m., a tug of war game at 11:15 a.m. to get participants warmed up, and the plunge at noon. A party will follow at Johnny’s Beach Club.

Vieira hopes the event will attract more participants and raise significantly more money than last year’s plunge. The primary participants in 2008 were police, fire, and corrections officers from throughout the state, but Vieira hopes that more people catch on and want to participate this year. “We want anyone to participate and get involved. It is 2 minutes out of your life to benefit a great cause.” Vieira went on to say that she hopes URI students will get involved this year. “Students provide such a great resource for philanthropy and community service events and we are working to try and get their participation as well.” Vieira will be setting up booths in the URI Memorial Union in the coming weeks to recruit students to participate.

Participants work in teams to raise money by obtaining pledges from friends, family, and colleagues. Vieira’s team, named Team Maxwell after her search and rescue dog Maxwell, raised $1,400 a year ago. She uses a website to spread the word about the plunge and to receive donations. “Anyone can go online and set up their own website to raise money. It is so easy and the potential is tremendous.” Individuals who would like to donate can go to www.firstgiving.com/sori or contact Vieira at 401-874-2121. Participants can use the same website to create a fundraising page for their own team. Each participant must raise or donate at least $50 in order to plunge. Prizes are given to participants who raise more than $100, with the prize varying based on the amount of money raised.

The Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of athletic training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 2.25 million athletes throughout the United States participate in the Special Olympics as well as athletes from over 160 countries worldwide.

Vieira originally became involved with the Special Olympics after working at a mental health and retardation center, serving as an assistant for the intellectually disabled. Since then she has expanded her involvement with the Special Olympics through numerous events and fundraisers, including an event called the torch run, during which a torch bearing the ”Flame of Hope” is carried across Rhode Island to URI’s Meade Stadium, the site of the annual summer Special Olympic Games.

The post-party will start at 12:30 p.m. and will feature food and music for all participants, while giving them the opportunity to warm up inside. Those who do not plunge are invited to attend the post party for a $15 donation. All partygoers are encouraged to wear costumes, and prizes will be given out to the best costumes.