Sponsor Spotlight: Sunrise Safety Services

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” is a saying you will hear quite frequently around the Special Olympics Maryland office. We are a sports organization and bring many aspects of the playing field into our internal processes. Teams come together to achieve a common goal. Our team is made up of 34 staff members, 8,716 athletes and their families, 6,872 volunteers, and countless corporate partners like Sunrise Safety Services and our goal is inclusion.

In November of 2018, we were contacted by Sunrise Safety Services inquiring about sponsorship for the 2019 MSP Polar Bear Plunge, offering to provide signage and traffic control for the Plunge. If you have not been to the Plunge before, both are crucial to the event’s success. The Sunrise Safety Services team invited Special Olympics Maryland team members to join their monthly safety meeting that all employees attend. We were the final agenda item and gave a Plunge overview to their future Plunge team, received a tour of the printing and warehouse facilities (where we got a sneak peek of their annual 2019 Mayor’s Holiday Parade Float), then made our way to their conference room, decorated with photos of their Sunrise Safety Services team.

As our teams began to discuss details of our new partnership, Janet Groncki CEO, Sunrise Safety Services said, “We’re doing this for him. We’re doing this for Duane.” Duane Fuller, was a Sunrise Safety Services employee who started as a laborer and worked his way up to vice president of the company. We learned more about Duane talking to the former CEO and Founder, Cathy Vogel “Hearing his name, makes my heart full. Duane gave 150% and everyone adored him.” Duane wished that one day the Sunrise team would band together to brave the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay at the annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge. Unfortunately, Duane passed away unexpectedly in 2009 before he could bear the cold with his team. Duane’s spirit lives on at Sunrise and inspired them to reach out and get involved with Special Olympics Maryland. In 2019, Duane plunged hand in hand with the Sunrise Safety Plunge team. 

What started as a Plunge sponsorship has blossomed into a year-round partnership. Sunrise has provided over 700 in-kind signs for our events and competitions over the past 3 years, made it to the Elite 8 of our Plunger of the Year competition racking up over 31,880 votes, had one of the most creative Virtual Plunge setups of 2021, and now will be taking on our highest fundraising event, Over the Edge this April. When partnering with a new sponsor, Special Olympics Maryland looks for mutually beneficial opportunities between our organization and the partnering company. We want partners like Sunrise Safety Services to experience inclusion at our events and competitions and be able to take those experiences and spread inclusion within their own networks. We asked Ernest Jorgenson, Marketing Director why Sunrise continues to Plunge each year and his response was, “Special Olympics is the most amazing group of individuals you could find. They really show you there is still kindness in the world during these hard times. Just seeing the smiling faces and being around the positive energy is enough. I have truly made real friends. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.”

Together, our team is creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability, and having partners like Sunrise Safety Services on our team makes our goal that much more achievable. We are eternally grateful for partners like Sunrise Safety Services whose dedication and commitment to our athletes over the past three years is unmatched. We look forward to strengthening this partnership for many years to come and can’t wait to watch them rappel this month. Thank you to everyone on the Sunrise Safety Services team!

If you are inspired by Sunrise Safety Services’ story, get involved today! Contact Frank Farrell at ffarrell@somd.org to begin your sponsorship journey with Special Olympics Maryland.