“It doesn’t take much to make a difference,” says Butler University sophomore Evan Blom.
As Co-Chair of Butler Ambassadors for Special Olympics (BASO), Blom has seen this up close—even before he joined the student organization during his first weeks on campus.
“My younger sister has Down syndrome, so I’ve always been an advocate for helping those with special needs,” says Blom, who is majoring in Actuarial Science and Mathematics. “I’ve seen the impact that Special Olympics has had on her life (She has competed in gymnastics and swimming in the past). So I was thrilled to find a club where I could give back and help provide that support to others.”
Special Olympics is a global organization providing sports programs to empower athletes with intellectual disabilities. At Butler, students involved in BASO work closely with Special Olympics Indiana and the Washington Township team to connect with athletes, promote inclusion, and raise funds for the cause. BASO holds a variety of events throughout the year, placing its main focus on Spring Sports and Polar Plunge.
After a year away due to the pandemic, Polar Plunge returns to Butler’s campus on January 29. These icy events have been hosted at sites across the state for more than 20 years. Participants spend weeks raising money for Special Olympics Indiana, then most will take the leap into freezing water in the middle of winter. All funds raised directly support athletes with disabilities. This year, BASO is aiming for $50,000.
“We were unable to host a Plunge last year due to COVID-related restrictions, so we have been working very hard to re-establish the Plunge experience that has characterized our event in years past,” Blom says. “Athletes from Washington Township’s Special Olympics team will Plunge alongside BASO Exec members and Butler students, and we’re very excited to be able to invite them on campus to participate with us.”
The wintry dives will begin at 10:00 AM just outside Butler’s Health and Recreation Complex. Those ready to brave the cold can register online to join as an individual or as part of a team. Then the fundraising begins, with a minimum of $85 required in order to take the plunge. If you’d like to support the cause while staying warm, you can make a donation to the fundraiser of your choice.
Polar Plunge will be the second in-person event BASO has held since the start of the pandemic, following the Fall Fest hosted on campus in November. During that joint social event with Special Olympics and Best Buddies, Blom enjoyed connecting with some of the athletes he had only ever met through Zoom. He also recalls a recent visit that the BASO team made to a Special Olympics bowling tournament, where Butler students cheered on athletes as they competed.
“It’s been very rewarding to see how much the athletes enjoy and appreciate the support that BASO and the Butler community provide,” Blom says. “I’ve found that by doing things as simple as attending a bowling tournament, playing bingo, or just getting to know an athlete, you can really brighten someone’s day.”