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West Milford Special Olympics Coaches To Take A (Frigid!) Plunge

Coaches with the West Milford Special Olympics will be participating in the 2017 polar bear plunge to raise money for their athletes.
Coaches with the West Milford Special Olympics will be participating in the 2017 polar bear plunge to raise money for their athletes. Photo Credit: Kristi Clave
Athletes who participated in the West Milford Special Olympics basketball program this year pose for a team photo.
Athletes who participated in the West Milford Special Olympics basketball program this year pose for a team photo. Photo Credit: Kristi Clave
The 23rd annual Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside in 2016 brought together 6,057 plungers to raise a record-breaking $1.7 million for the athletes of Special Olympics New Jersey.
The 23rd annual Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside in 2016 brought together 6,057 plungers to raise a record-breaking $1.7 million for the athletes of Special Olympics New Jersey. Video Credit: SpecialOlympicsNJ

WEST MILFORD, N.J. -- A West Milford teacher and Special Olympics coach will jump into the ocean on Saturday with about 6,700 others supporting the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

This is the first time 11-year teacher and coach Kristi Clave is participating.

"Jess Cohen, who is also a coach for our team, plunged last year. She, the cause, and the funny pictures she took convinced me to do it with her this year. We then convinced the rest of the coaches to join in. We have 11 team members so far and have raised well over $3,000," Clave said.

She's a multiple disabilities teacher at Maple Road Elementary School.

Saturday’s Plunge is expected to raise more than $1.7 million.

There's still time to donate here .

The weather is predicted to be a gorgeous 70 degrees but that won't affect the chilly ocean temperatures expected to be just 43.

This is an exciting time for the West Milford Special Olympics team because it's a qualifying year for the US National Games.

"If athletes get a gold medal in a state event, they are able to try out for Team New Jersey. Nationals will be held in Seattle in 2018."

Summer Games are June 9-11th at TCNJ. The athletes stay in their dorms, are provided with food and entertainment, and professional sports venues.

"All of the money that is raised at the plunge goes to activities such as these," she said.

Clave said the games are important for students and she personally finds the experience rewarding.

"Special Olympics provides athletes and volunteers with a safe place to be themselves. It allows for fair competition, goal setting, and a lot of fun. Our athletes also benefit from the very active nature of sports, too. Keeping your body healthy often keeps your brain healthy.

"As much as I teach my students or athletes, they teach me even more. It's very rewarding. I also have the opportunity to work with many volunteers and teach them how to be accepting and kind. Fostering friendships between peers is not only one of my favorite parts of being a coach and teacher but also something that will stick with them for their life journeys," she said.

To learn more, see the team's Facebook page or email westmilfordspecialolympics@gmail.com.

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