VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Jan. 25, 2022 – The countdown to the Polar Plunge 2022 is on, with volunteers already starting to gather their teams and make preparations for the yearly dip in the frigid water of the Atlantic Ocean, all to raise money for Special Olympics Virginia.
For Virginia Natural Gas’ Tammy Kennedy, it means the start of her 23rd year volunteering for the annual fundraiser, helping to recruit more volunteers and plungers from the energy company to take part in the occasion.
“This has been a true labor of love for me to be involved with and see how much the event has grown,” said Kennedy, a Special Projects coordinator at VNG. “People don’t realize how big this event is and how many lives it touches. The money we raise allows the athletes to compete year-round at events across the state and they appreciate everything we do.”
Team VNG members will once again line up along the oceanfront with thousands of other supporters to voluntarily jump into the icy-cold, bone-chilling waters Saturday, Feb. 5. They will be “turning up the heat” to support Special Olympics Virginia’s largest annual fundraiser, the Polar Plunge in Virginia Beach.
According to Kennedy, when she was first approached about taking the dip into the frigid water during the middle of winter, she was skeptical, but wanted to see what it was about.
“I went down to the beach to watch, and helped organize the event,” said Kennedy. “Everyone looked like they were freezing but once I saw how much fun it was, I was hooked.”
Kennedy has taken the plunge every year since. She has no qualms about wading out in the cold water and over the years, recruited her husband, sons and friends to plunge with her.
“We have plunged in all kinds of weather from sunny skies to rain and even snow,” added Kennedy. “It might be cold, but it warms my heart knowing we are helping out a great group.”
When Kennedy initially became involved with the event over two decades ago, only a small group of about 15 employees and family members took part. It has since grown into a large group of more than 50 VNG plungers along with volunteers, fundraisers, and spectators.
“This has become so much more than just a chilly dip in the ocean,” said Kennedy. “Our employees take part in everything from the event set-up to the plunge and costume contest and now the double-dip. Once our employees get involved, whether they plunge for the first time or just come down to support the event, they keep coming back.”
Another reason for all the involvement from VNG employees is to support one of their own, Chris Hall, who is on the Special Olympics Virginia’s Board of Directors, and has a son, Gavin, who is an avid golfer and competes regularly in the Special Olympics.
According to Kennedy, the plunge is more like a VNG family celebration.
“It actually began when Chris started volunteering for the event,” said Kennedy. “As his involvement grew in the Virginia Beach plunge, so did the support of the entire company. Fundraising and plunging soon became an annual tradition for Team VNG.”
So how does she recruit others to take part in the plunge?
“I tell them just come down and watch,” she said. “The energy is contagious. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it. People just don’t realize how many community members this one event helps.”
This year, VNG has a goal to raise $25,000 through employee fundraising and company contributions to help fund programs for local and state Special Olympics and generate awareness for the organization.
“At Virginia Natural Gas, service is part of our company culture,” added Kennedy. “We’ve done a lot in all our years volunteering for Special Olympics and we’re just getting started.”
Since beginning its involvement in the annual event more than 20 years ago, Virginia Natural Gas has contributed more than $480,000 to Special Olympics Virginia in support of sports training, competitions, leadership opportunities and health services for Special Olympic athletes across Virginia.
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