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Special Olympics Chillin’ at Home fundraiser continues through March 5

Kaitlyn Riley

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Special Olympics created new ways to support athletes in 2021 with new fundraising opportunities.

In a typical year, Kerry Gloede would have been organizing an event for hundreds of people to take the Polar Plunge at Black River Beach in La Crosse. Because of COVID-19, the nonprofit shifted gears and offered two new options.

Gloede was still at the Black River Beach Neighborhood Center Thursday to hand out Cozy Kits for those who accepted the 2021 Polar Plunge Chillin’ at Home challenge.

“People could fundraise, pick up a cozy kit, and do something outdoors,” she explained. “We asked participants to post it on Facebook or on the website to share with people how they plunge this year at home on their own.”

The other opportunity was to join The Great Outdoors Feb. 28 at the Whitetail Ridge Ski Area for a night of tubing or cardboard races in support of Special Olympics Wisconsin.

“We’re really excited about that option,” Gloede said. “Instead of plunging in the water, we’re plunging down a hill. It looks different this year, but still helps raise money for our athletes.”

As of Thursday, they raised more than $6,000, according to Gloede. Their goal is to hit $10,000 before fundraising ends March 5.

“If you know somebody who is participating, or you would like to make a donation even if you don’t know anybody, we do have Chilly Bear who is our mascot,” Gloede said. “She’s online, and you can donate to Chilly Bear if you don’t know anyone else participating.”

Just in the La Crosse area, there are more than 300 Special Olympic athletes who too have been spending extra time at home because of COVID-19.

“This support is more important than ever,” Gloede said. “We really want to see our athletes get out on the playing field again, so the funds are really important especially since our Polar Plunge event last year was the last major event Special Olympic could hold to raise money.”

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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