Super Plunge

Elwood Johnson, in front holding the waterproof pouch, leads a team of Super Plunge participants as they head toward their 24th and final plunge at Salty Brine State Beach n 2018. 

 

The Westerly Sun

When Mac Hindle moved back to Rhode Island in 2018, the Hopkinton patrolman and Westerly native wanted to find ways to become more involved in helping the Special Olympics. The veteran law enforcement officer will get his chance on March 21 and 22 when he joins 16 others diving into the icy Atlantic waters at Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett for the 2020 Super Plunge.

Hindle and the team will join the event’s founder, Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr., in taking the plunge every hour for 24 hours straight — and the team has a lofty goal of raising $135,000 for Special Olympics Rhode Island for their efforts.

“For me, and I suspect for many doing this, it’s all about the athletes and the opportunity to raise money and awareness at the same time,” he said. “We are fortunate in Rhode Island; the organization serves 4,000 athletes and provides a tremendous service at no cost to the athletes or their families.”

The annual plunge, which is part of a weekend of events that will also include the 13th annual Torch Run Plunge and the recently introduced Unified Champion School Plunge, is the biggest fundraiser or the year for Special Olympics, R.I. It will begin with the high school plunge at noon on Saturday, Super Plunge participants will begin their quest at 1 p.m., and the 24-effort will culminate in a final jump with other Torch Run Plunge participants at noon on Sunday.

Tracy J. Garabedian, director of development for the organization, said this week that the organization is hoping to raise over $175,000 during the course of the weekend. This includes the Super Plunge goal of $135,000 as well as a goal of raising an additional $40,000 through the Torch Run Plunge itself.

All proceeds from the event support operations for the organization, and the effort has allowed the state to be one of just a handful nationwide to offer all program to athletes and their families free of charge.

The program has seen growing success in the eight years since Johnson first braved the 24-hour challenge on his own, and the team efforts in 2019 raised a record $135,000. Garabedian said she is confident that they will reach that goal once again.

The Super Plunge team is slightly smaller this year, but that’s a result of its success. Garabedian notes that in the past couple jumps, Johnson and other local plungers invited law enforcement from across the northeast to help show them how the event works. Johnson was the first to do the 24-hour Super plunge on the east coast, she said.

As a result, similar plunge efforts have since been established to help Special Olympics programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Don’t let the smaller team fool you, however. There is still plenty of excitement, Johnson said, as his team is led by enthusiastic captain Michael Bullock, a Special Olympics athlete.

“He’s just ... athletes like Michael are why we do this,” Johnson said. “There comes a time in the night when we you get tired, you get cold and you wonder why you are doing this. Then you see him there and he has no negativity whatsoever, he’s encouraging us and he’s just motivating everyone. It reminds you why this event is so important.”

Hindle may only be now joining the team, but he’s no stranger to the Special Olympics. After serving a year and half with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, the now 34-year-old police veteran became heavily interested in helping the organization after he was hired with the police department in Hopkinton, N.H., and was introduced to the cause by the chief and administration team, who did a lot for the torch run there.

Over the next three years, Hindle continued to provide assistance in any way possible and has done everything from participating in the final leg of that state’s torch run, to serving as an MC and honoring Special Olympics champions during the medal ceremony.

During his last year with that department, Hindle ran the entire last leg from Concord, N.H., to the Wildcats Stadium at the University of New Hampshire, a 17-mile trek that began at 3 a.m. Now, he laughed, he’s ready to take part in his next marathon.

As he trains and awaits the March plunges, he is asking for residents capable of doing so to consider a donation to the organization through the FirstGiving website at https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/mac-hindle/2020-Super-Plunge.

Hindle’s 8-year-old daughter Averie, who already has started participating in her school’s Unified program, will also be joining him to provide support, and maybe take a couple pictures, at the final plunge.

“When you see first-hand just what this means for these participants and for their families, you just can’t overlook how much of a positive impact these opportunities make,” Hindle said. “This is something that will always be near and dear to me, and if there is anything I can do to help the organization, I will.”

To learn more about the Super Plunge team or to donate to team members, visit https://www.firstgiving.com/event/soriTR/2020-Super-Plunge. Those interested in taking part in the annual Torch run Plunge are also invited to sign up and take part at https://www.firstgiving.com/event/soriTR/13th-Annual-Torch-Run-Plunge.

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