carmelo oquendo, charitable causes, dana herbert, greggy soriano, jasmine frank, jay qualls, johanna lyons, make a donation, next great baker, next great bakers, next great bakers take the plunge, pamela ahn, special olympics, special olympics of delaware, special olympics plunge
Today I’m paying for it. Trying to catch a sneeze every other minute. Runny nose. Swollen sinuses…the typical cold you catch when you’re roaming about a beachfront town in the dead middle of winter. A wind chill factor that would make a Chicagoan shiver and waves crashing with an undercurrent strong enough to send Willy back to freedom. Oh yes this was the scene at Rehoboth Beach this past weekend. Boardwalk shops. B&Bs on the back streets. Nicola’s. Grotto’s. Mom and Pop shops that give this summer-poppin’ beach town a sense of character and down-home-comfort. Add a bunch of bakers to the mix, with a passion for cake design and a worthy cause, the Special Olympics, in hours this place is packed in February like it’s the Fourth of July!
Every year, around the first weekend of February, the Special Olympics chapter of Delaware spearheads a fundraising campaign hosted in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Plungers, or rather people who dare to brave the freezing temperatures of the winter ocean, congregate in this beachside town and partake in an array of festivities, one being the annual cake off competition. But what’s most important, is the extraordinary number of individuals who benefit from the charitable donations. People with disabilities of all ages are celebrated and praised for their participation in Special Olympics. Their families and friends pledge and plunge on their behalf. As a former Special Education teacher, I was already down! We competed in a cake-off to raise funds, but to also raise awareness. It was at one moment during our competition that Jay became very emotional. As a parent myself, I completely understood his tears. We can be inspired and moved by the littlest things. To see children filled with joy, who are daily challenged to live in their disability is quite moving and in my opinion, inspirational. Regardless of what others may think or what doctors may prognose, they DO NOT allow it to stop them. They try, they adapt, they win, they celebrate, they live just like everyone else and I am humbled by their courage and strength.
Saturday, we caked-off and Sunday, we plunged. In between the two days, there was Dos Locos! One of the best restaurants in the heart of Rehoboth Beach to eat, be merry, and sing your heart out to karaoke. We laughed, shared our NGB memories, and gained a newfound love for what cake has done for all us. Let’s just say, the bakers had a real, sweet time!
So…Sunday…here we are…standing amongst thousands. Diving teams in boats, out in the Atlantic, creating a barrier to keep people from going too far into a deep under-current. I’d been wiping my nose since I arrived that Friday. Our wonderful volunteer Amy was the best escort, free money could buy! LOL! She wooed her hubby into bringing me Benadryl 6:30am Sunday morning. The Meet and Greet commenced at the Sands Hotel. We posed for photo-ops as patrons stood in line to view our cakes on display from the competition the day before.
“Okay bakers!” Amy shouts as everyone gathers for the 1:00pm plunge only minutes away.
My knees buckle. I grab my ball of tissues. Sadly, minus my cowl -neck H&M scarf, I feel the swift breeze numb each side of my face as it slapped me on one cheek and then the next. Jay disrobes. I see Dana beginning to kick off his shoes. Greggy begins to unbutton his blazer. Johanna & Carmelo, the Massachusetts folks, don’t surprise me, proudly stand as if it’s June…but PAM! She even begins to do the shoe kick-off. I’m freezing. Nose and snot have now formed an ice barrier. Even Jasmine’s, LA warm-blooded self, begins untying her combat boots…I’m convinced she’s originally from Canada. Amy gives me that disapproving look when you’re 4, caught reaching for the cookie jar past your bedtime.
“Kendra……” she points to my shoes.
“I’m the towel girl!” I announce matter-of-factly.
She shakes her head and smiles.
I think to myself, I could get my feet wet, but I already have a cold. The wind hurls a left hook and smacks me again, and this time…I reach a verdict.
I hear a roaring wave of cheers begin to filter down. Approximately 30,000 people hold their stance…some shirtless…some with bikinis on….some with rolled up jeans…Me? I’m frozen solid looking at waves crashing with intimidation!
While my body didn’t join the plethora of others who braved the artic conditions on that freezing Sunday, I was moved by the spirit of everyone who gathered together to do something great. Holding towels like Bobby Boucher (Waterboy), I decided that I’ll make my donation and pledge for others to do the same. So I plunged in my pocket and made a donation to the Special Olympics of Delaware. Donate here! I applaud humanity, hot or cold. But in order for this black girl to plunge, I need warmer temperatures and a shower cap! LOL!
Thanks again…Carrie, Amy, and all the others that made this event, yet again, a success!