For the past two years, NCAA Division III has been engaged in a partnership with Special Olympics. According to the NCAA website, the purpose of the partnership is to improve the lives of Special Olympics athletes through their involvement with Division III student-athletes and to foster a mutual learning experience between Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes.
Last Saturday, three members of the Muhlenberg baseball team went to extreme – as in extremely cold – lengths to support the Special Olympics. One of them, junior outfielder Nick Gazzillo, describes the experience.
These were the words of sophomore pitcher Matt Clarke after coming out of the freezing Easton River this past Saturday. Clarke, along with myself and junior infielder Nick Kennedy, represented the Muhlenberg baseball team and Muhlenberg College Athletics as a whole at the first-ever Polar Bear Plunge in Easton. All together over 600 people braved the chilling water, raising over $80,000 dollars for the Pennsylvania branch of the Special Olympics.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Kennedy. “We’re blessed to have the ability to go out and compete on a daily basis. We felt it was the right thing to do, to help those that maybe aren’t as lucky as we are.”
The three of us were given the opportunity through the Muhlenberg Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Headed by Coach Eddinger of the field hockey team, the organization worked hard to raise the money necessary for the three of us to participate in the event. Along with Coach Eddinger, senior women’s basketball player Kate Clawson and sophomore pitcher Matt Lawsky were at the forefront of this effort, organizing the event from the get-go.
SAAC plans on participating in the event next year and hopes the number of athletes will grow. As for whether or not he would do it again next year, Clarke responded, “Absolutely,” while Kennedy added, “We’re going to bring a few more teammates along.”