Since 2017, Toronto Police Service (TPS) has been one of Special Olympics Ontario’s (SOO) biggest supporters. This year was no exception, as TPS raised $72,418.18 during this year’s Polar Plunge. A big reason why Toronto Police Service has become one of Special Olympics Ontario’s biggest supporters is because of people like Superintendent David Rydzik and Detective Michael Puterbaugh, who continue to contribute an immense amount of effort during the annual winter event. For them, supporting Special Olympics Ontario athletes is paramount-especially during these unusual times.
A Law Enforcement member for nearly 30 years, Det. Michael Puterbaugh sympathizes with what SOO athletes are having to deal with. “I understand the tough times the athletes are currently going through with the pandemic; not being able to compete or socialize with their peers” says Det. Puterbaugh. “It has been both physically and mentally challenging for them. Me taking 10 minutes out of my day and plunging, is a small act compared to the struggle the athletes are currently facing” continues Puterbaugh. “My fundraising will help support SOO in building more programs for SOO athletes and provide a future for sport when this pandemic is over.”
With the Polar Plunge having gone virtual this year, TPS Members adapted a bevy of inventive Plunges. Remarkably, the creativity that was performed with each Plunge was by no means forced. “The diversity of content and Plunge creativity was something that came naturally” exclaims Puterbaugh. “We only encouraged and engaged our members to participate and fundraise for SOO. We did not tell them how or when to plunge, we only set some safety guidelines. Then, as we started to post Plunge videos on social media, it engaged our members to try and do something different.”
The inventiveness of TPS’s Polar Plunges undoubtedly was a factor in their highly successful fundraising efforts this year, but this success only goes as far as the people involved. “The key to our success was engagement of TPS members; reaching out personally through emails, social media and having great leadership involvement,” admits Puterbaugh. “Our leaders such as Chief Ramer and our TPS-LETR Chair – Superintendent Rydzik also provided additional encouragement and support which then influenced others members to participate”.
Chief James Ramer has done an incredible job of fundraising for the athletes raising a total of $29,038.18! Check out Chief Ramer’s creative Polar Plunge below:
A member of the Toronto Police Service for 25 years, Superintendent David Rydzik was one of Special Olympics Ontario’s top fundraisers this year, raising an astounding $6,475.00. https://polarplunge.ca/
For Superintendent Rydzik, supporting SOO athletes doesn’t have a price tag. “This is the fourth year now that I have taken part in the Polar Plunge and I always get people asking me why would you want to freeze yourself like that?” says Rydzik. “The answer is quite simple, once you have had a chance to see the look of pure joy on an athlete’s face while they are competing in an event that they love to do, well, you're hooked and you want to help raise funds any which way you can”.
In Detective Puterbaugh’s case, supporting SOO athletes has not only brought joy, but the interactions and friendships he’s made has provided him with a perspective of life that is very welcoming. “When I chat with SOO athletes, they always look at a situation with an optimistic view point” says Puterbaugh. “This energy and enthusiasm are then transferred”. “I feel my friendship with SOO athletes has made me a better person and a better police officer because of this,” Puterbaugh adds.
Here’s looking forward to new friendships and continued positive energy to come.
*all total fundraising efforts mentioned were as of 2:55 PM EST, Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021*