January 2015

Greetings Supporter,

As we welcome in the new year, nothing really changes for our team of athletes, families, volunteers, school administrators, corporate partners, community partners, donors and staff. Our commitment remains steadfast in delivering the mission to as many individuals with intellectual disabilities as possible. We work every day for our athletes to make today better than yesterday and prepare to make tomorrow even better than today. This daily focus works like compounding interest on an investment producing incremental progress that over time adds up to real gains.

So, I am bullish on Special Olympics Maryland in 2015. I am bullish most of all because of the leadership demonstrated by our athletes. Last year we made a concerted effort to engage and prepare more athletes for leadership opportunities and we have already seen the benefits on display throughout Maryland. Our Giving Tuesday campaign in December featured Elaina Camacho, Adam Hays and Julian English in commercial messages that aired on Baltimore radio stations 98Rock and WBAL1090 AM. These three athletes also delivered video thank you messages to those of you who responded generously with a year-end gift.

Sam’s Clubs are in the midst of an associate led fundraising effort to support Special Olympics Maryland. As part of our desire to support this effort eight different athletes have visited 11 Sam’s Clubs locations in January to share their personal account of the value of Special Olympics in their lives. By all accounts these visits have inspired the associates in the efforts to raise more funds for our athletes.

We just completed the 19th Annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge and our athletes played a significant and valuable role in making this year’s plunge a success. Eight athletes led the Super Plunge team, plunging 1x per hour for 24 hours (see photo related information in sidebar of this newsletter). As plungers passed through registration they encountered a large video board and were greeted by a series of thank you messages that included five Special Olympics Maryland athletes who videotaped their message at WBAL11. Click here to see the video. Additionally, a group of SOMD athlete ambassadors circulated among the hundreds of Corporate Plungers on Friday to thank them for their support. Alysa Ogden, Alex Barnes, Thomas Smith, Keegan Zimmerman and Annu Singleton joined me on the stage to present awards and thank the entire crowd of over 400 corporate plungers.

Many of these same athletes were joined by other athlete ambassadors on Saturday, moving among plungers, families and friends assembled in hospitality tents and throughout the park to thank everyone for their support. The athletes showed great pride in approaching strangers to provide a simple thank you for taking the plunge for them. Elaina Camacho also showed her leadership skills on the main stage thanking sponsors and plungers in front of thousands of people.

Special Olympics Maryland athletes are the face and voice of this organization. Our athlete ambassadors are available for public speaking engagements that inspire and motivate people in a very unique and impactful way. If you are interested in having athletes address your business or service group let me know by email and we will work to set it up. I also welcome your questions, concerns or feedback so feel free to contact me by email at jschmutz@somd.org.



James C. Schmutz
President and CEO

PS The 2015 competition schedule gets started in February with Interscholastic Unified Strength and Conditioning and Indoor Bocce state championships along with our Winter Games which features Alpine Skiing and Snowshoeing. (See Upcoming Events in sidebar of this issue)

Athlete News & Views

Josh Smith, Michael Heup, Adam Hays & Annu Singleton lead the charge at the Super Plunge Event during the 19th Annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge held on January 23rd.

Special Olympics Maryland athletes inspire us every day. They overcome rejection, demonstrate commitment and passion for achieving personal best performances on the field of play, give it the best in the classroom and workplace when given the chance.  And so it is not really surprising that once again this year, as we celebrate 12 years of the “Super Plunge” that athletes like Josh, Michael, Adam and Annu (pictured above) along with 4 of their fellow athletes Desi Holland, Jimmy Myrick and Ben Collins joined 30 other Super Plungers for 24 plunges in 24 hours all to support their fellow athletes. The Super Plunge team led by TEAM Captain Donny Boyd raised $309,470 blowing past their goal of $275,000. Just another exceptional example of athlete leadership.


The plunge may be over, but there is still time to make a donation on their behalf.  Just click on any of the links below to show your support:

Support Josh Smith
Support Michael Heup
Support Adam Hays 
Support Desi Holland
Support Erica Wheeler
Support Jimmy Myrick
Support Ben Collins

Upcoming Events


Special Events:

The South River High School Snohawks take the Plunge Personally

Each and every year, during the month of January, we are asked what possesses us to jump into the chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay and our answer is always that same – Why not?  Why not endure a few seconds of frigid water to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Maryland and possibly make a dream of theirs turn into a reality?

Many participants in the annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge are doing it for the same reason, the athletes of Special Olympics Maryland, but they do not have the same connection to these athletes as do the plungers of the Cool School Challenge.  Maryland students have that unique bond with Special Olympic athletes because they see them on a daily basis in the hallways and classrooms of our schools.  We have that personal connection that carries over throughout the year and not just during the month of January.  Plungers from the Cool School Challenge can actually see the benefit of the plunge because they are able to see the high school Interscholastic Unified Programs (bocce, bowling, and tennis) and the joy it brings to their fellow classmates as they are allowed to participate in a part of high school life.  How many plungers can say that they can “high five” an athlete after they just won a medal at a Special Olympics competition or watch the expressions on their faces as they are announced at a school pep rally – we can and that is why we plunge.

The South River SnoHawks have been participating in the Cool School Challenge since its inception 6 years ago and since that time have raised almost $200,000 to benefit Special Olympics Maryland and those very athletes that we have the privilege of calling our classmates.  Over the years many other Cool School teams have asked us what has made our fundraising efforts so successful and the answer is a simple one…a lasting bond.  The members of our team have a deep connection and bond with the athletes in our building and we know how the money that is raised from this event impacts not only on their high school experience, but their daily lives as well. 

We have also found that the crazier the fundraiser, the better.  We have done every fundraiser that we could possibly think of and the more “interesting” it is the more willing people are to participate and help us with our cause.  Those fundraisers have included: Kiss a Goat, Pie a Teacher, Burpee-a-thon, Candy grams, school dances, sale of special clothing items (polar bear wear), basket bingos, Paint Night event, restaurant nights, splash-a-teacher, guest servers at restaurants, and we are going to be adding a Color Run this spring.

We encourage more teams to join the efforts of the Cool School Challenge to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Maryland, and do not be afraid to try out a fundraiser that some may think of as crazy – crazy is good when you are benefiting something that some see as just as crazy.  And take it from those of us who see the impact of this event on a daily basis – it is well worth that few minutes of frigid water on the chilly day in January when you can impact the lives of so many wonderful people for a much longer time.


- Doug Brown, STEM Teacher at South River High School


Myth: Special Olympics is a segregated organization exclusively for people with intellectual disabilities.

FACT:   While the mission clearly states that Special Olympics provides sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the organization has provided inclusive/integrated sports training and competition opportunities through Unified Sports programs since 1989. Here in Maryland we work with 21 of 24 county school districts across the state to offer Interscholastic Unified Sports programs in tennis (fall), strength and conditioning and indoor bocce(winter) and outdoor bocce and track and field(spring). We also offer a range of Unified Sports experiences in our community based program outside the school setting.  For more information on the global reach of Unified Sports click here.

We need your support

Athletes don't pay to play

Did you know that an athlete does not pay to participate in Special Olympics Maryland? A gift of $203 will cover the cost of an athlete like Paul, pictured above, to train and compete in Alpine Skiing. You can help make this possible…it's only a click away.

Volunteer Opportunities

If you’re inspired by the lives being transformed through Special Olympics Maryland, there are dozens of ways you can get involved. Visit us online to learn how you can volunteer.

Spending Wisely in Maryland

86% of every dollar raised is spent on sports training and competition, and athlete retention and recruitment.

By the Numbers


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