Round Two: Portage polar plunge team Grin and Bear It for the Special Olympics

Chrissy Motz at a Polar Plunge. Submitted photo

For 15 years, Chrissy Motz has been a fixture at Polar Plunges across Northeast Ohio.

Each winter, the Streetsboro resident can be seen braving frigid waters throughout the region to help raise money for a cause that’s near and dear to her heart: the Special Olympics of Ohio. She and her fellow plungers on her team, “Portage Grin and Bear It,” routinely do what most of us wouldn’t even consider doing: put on a bathing suit and take a dip in waters ranging between just 32 and 35 degrees, often dodging snow and ice along the way.

Team Portage Grin and Bear It. Submitted photo

Not this year, though. Chrissy has been sidelined for the 2024 Cleveland Polar Plunge, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 24 at Gateway Plaza downtown.

“Due to recent health issues,” she told supporters in a statement, “I will not be able to physically plunge into the icy water this year. I will still be at the plunge to support my team “Portage Grin and Bear It”. I am hoping you will still consider donating to me, Chrissy Motz, as I help out our local Special Olympic athletes. We are trying to be the top fundraiser and with your help we can do it. Thank you for supporting me and believing in me.”

While she’s not preparing to actually take the plunge this year, she’s still going full steam ahead with her fundraising efforts to benefit local Special Olympic athletes. As of Feb. 22, Chrissy has raised $3,445 of Portage Grin and Bear Its’ $8,567 total thus far. For perspective, Chrissy’s fundraising goal going in was $500, with her team setting a goal of $1,000.

But they’re not finished: Donations will be accepted up to a few weeks after Saturday’s Polar Plunge.

Here’s how to donate: Send a check made out to Special Olympics and mail to: Chrissy Motz, 825 David Dr., Streetsboro, OH 44241; or donate online by going to Chrissy’s fundraising page.

The total fundraising tally so far for the 2024 Cleveland Polar Plunge is $101,169 — within striking distance of the $130,000 goal.

“By supporting me in the Polar Plunge, you will help provide year-round sports training and competition for our local Special Olympic athletes,” Chrissy said. “No donation is too big or too small because every dollar makes a difference in the lives of Special Olympic athletes.”

Chrissy explains the impact that Special Olympics has made on her own life.

“I have always wanted to be able to compete in sports, but there was no way I could do it on a regular sports team,” she said. “I needed to learn new ways to do ordinary activities that most people take for granted, such as being able to walk or run without falling. Special Olympics with their dedicated coaches have taught me new ways to look at how I attempt to do these. The coaches go above and beyond to find new ways to do even the basic sports. With their help, I am able to show what I was really able to accomplish. They saw my ability not my disability and encouraged me every step of the way. Special Olympics has done so much to help me be the person I am today.”

With that specialized training, Chrissy has indeed shown what she can do as an athlete, which she details on her fundraising page.

“I knew I could do it, but just not like an ordinary athlete,” she says. “I was given the chance when I signed on to be a Special Olympic athlete. That day changed my world. I had the chance to learn and grow as I participated in speedracing, figure skating, volleyball, swimming and track and field. I cannot tell you how your life will be transformed by just watching a Special Olympic athlete do their sport, their way.”

And that includes wading into the arctic waters of the Polar Plunge.

“As everyone knows this is not easy for anyone, especially if they have disabilities,” Chrissy says. “People have always asked why I do it. I do it because Special Olympics has done so much for me. The money raised helps all of the Special Olympic athletes have a chance to learn, grow and compete at their own levels.”

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.