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Miller’s Ale House Takes a Plunge for The Special Olympics

Credit: Chris Boyle
Credit: Chris Boyle
Story by Chris Boyle. 

To help out some special athletes, a local eatery is preparing to take the plunge; both into icy winter waters and their very own pockets, and all to help a great cause. 

This week, Miller’s Ale House hosted a kick-off party for their annual Polar Plunge, an event they’ve participated in for the last five years to help raise money for the New York Special Olympics. 

Last year, Miller’s Ale House raised about $5,000 for the Special Olympics; Lance Wolff, Marketing Service Manager at Miller’s, said that their goal is to hopefully match that amount this year, and given the fact that the event has grown over time, that goal seems like a realistic one. 

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“The first year I started this, we had maybe about 25 people,” he said. “It’s continued to grow, and last year we had close to 50 people. There were even more people who volunteered, but only 50 or so actually went in the water. You’ve got to be a brave soul to go in there.” 

The Polar Plunge takes place this year on March 2 in Port Washington’s Bar Harbor, where the Miller’s Ale House team will be joined by several thousand other participants from all over Long Island, all taking a dip in the frigid winter waters for the causes of their choice. 

Diane Colonna, Long Island Regional Director for the Special Olympics of New York, said that Miller’s Ale House has been a valuable ally of her organization and the thousands of special needs athletes they serve every year. 

“They have been extremely supportive, because not only does Miller’s put together a team from their staff, but their customers have also put together their own teams,” she said. “They’ve helped raise a tremendous amount of money for us, not just at the Polar Plunge, but throughout the year.” 

Colonna said that the survival of the Special Olympics depends upon the selflessness and charity of concerned community members. 

“On Long Island, we have over 5,000 athletes that participate in the Special Olympics, and we don’t charge them a dime,” he said. “However, it costs us about $400 per athlete, and we have three seasons per year, each with 22 Olympic-style sports...it really adds up. So, having community support, such as from Miller’s is huge.” 

Miller’s Ale House holds multiple charitable events every year; most recently, they held a fundraiser to help with the medical bills of a cancer-stricken employee and fed scores of people affected by Hurricane Sandy. However, for Wolff, helping the Special Olympics is a personal calling. 

“It’s something that I’ve always done in other restaurants that I’ve worked in,” he said. “I have friends who have children with special needs, and I just thought it would be a great way to give back to the kids, get involved with the community, my guests, and my staff...and it’s been a home run ever since.” 

Joe Gallagher of Levittown was one of the many people present at Miller’s kick-off party. Gallagher, whose 18 year-old son Brendan is autistic and attends Levittown schools, represents a team dubbed ‘Brendan’s Brigade,’ which has been participating in the Polar Plunge for ten years and counting. 

“This is just a way for us to give back to the community that’s been so good to my son,” he said. “The entire MacArthur High School is going to be involved in the Polar Plunge this year...we were the number one fundraising team for the Plunge last year, and we’re going to try to be number one again this year...last year we raised over $10,000.” 

“It’s an incredible day...it’s just a good feeling,” Gallagher added. “These athletes train so hard to do what comes naturally to many of us...a few seconds out of your day to support them is the right thing to do.”

Levittown seventh-grader Jessica Pedroza will be taking her second annual Polar Plunge dip this year.

 “It’s nice to help people who are disabled, and it shows that we care for them,” she said. “It’s rough going in the water, but it’s for a good cause.”

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