RICHMOND — When the COVID-19 pandemic struck shortly after the 13th Torch Run Plunge and Super Plunge in 2020, it hit particularly hard for those who struggle with disabilities, and children were no exception.

The families that had benefited from the Special Olympics Rhode Island were stuck at home, often unable to socialize as a result of the isolation. Many families lacked the resources to be able to get their children safely out of the home, and competitions among athletes were sparse, due to safety restrictions.

“Opportunities through the Special Olympics were a lifeline for many of these families during (the pandemic), and while it wasn’t the same as when they had full competition, it gave them that connection and that sense of hope,” said Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr., one of the founders of the Super Plunge. “That is why I do this; these kids are the only reason I do this.”

Johnson, Hopkinton Police Officer Mac Hindle and nine others will hit the icy waters of Block Island Sound on Saturday and Sunday in a true return to the sea, as the event will be held in March for the first time in three years. The fundraiser was rescheduled in 2021 due to the pandemic and was held in December, which did not leave enough time to hold the event on its regular schedule in 2022.

The Super Plunge, a concept that Johnson first participated in by himself before gaining additional support year after year, had swelled to include more than 20 participants before the pandemic, and Johnson said he hopes to one day get back to that level.

As the team prepares to begin the challenging Super Plunge at noon on Saturday — the event consists of 24 plunges into the ocean, each done on the hour every hour before culminating in a the community Torch Run Plunge at noon on Sunday — Johnson and Hindle each said they are more focused on reaching pre-pandemic fundraising levels.

To date, the team has raised $109,000 through the Super Plunge campaign this year, but Hindle said they will continue to work to increase that through this weekend’s event. Even then, Hindle said that his experience with the Special Olympics will have him doing this each year until he is physically unable to participate.

Hindle, who took part for the first time in 2020 after relocating from New Hampshire and transferring to the Hopkinton Police Department, said the Special Olympics has long been close to his heart. He first volunteered with the organization while working as an officer in New Hampshire.

Those interested in donating to Hindle’s effort may do so at

“With the help of generous people who donate to this great cause, no athlete or their families will ever have to pay for the athletes to participate in any sporting events," Hindle said. “To see the hard work and dedication of all of the athletes and to see the smiles on their faces and how much the Special Olympics means to their lives, I could not be prouder to be a part of the team. I will take part for as long as I can.”

Tracy Garabedian, senior director of special events and the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Rhode Island, said the Super Plunge has raised $769,250 and is expected to be closer to $800,000 by the time the event comes to a close.

“This fundraiser and the Torch Run Plunge are so important to us, as it truly brings together the law enforcement community to highlight their support of Special Olympics Rhode Island,” she said.

In the coming Torch Run Plunge, recruits from the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy will be participating and fundraising as well, and have already raised just shy of $17,000 to date. They set a goal of $20,000.

The plunge is considered a kick-off heading into the spring sports season and ahead of the State Games at the University of Rhode Island from June 2 to 4.

Johnson said he too, like Hindle, intends to continue to take the Super Plunge for years to come, simply because of what it means for those with disabilities throughout the state.

“I do not like sleep deprivation and I am not a fan of the cold, but when it is for something so important that makes such a difference in the lives of so many kids and families, it makes every minute worth it,” he said.

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