A Message from the President & CEO: 2022 Quarter 4

Dear Supporter,

I want to thank you for your commitment to our athletes. Thanks to you they get to play the sports they love and grow through every practice and competition. As 2022 closes it offers a time for reflection. I am so proud of our staff and leadership volunteers in the community and schools who worked so closely together this year with a singular purpose of getting our athletes back in action in the safest environment possible. I am proud of our coaches for continuing to coach our athletes through challenging times. I am proud of our family members and others who made sure our athletes got to practices, and competitions. And I am proud of our athletes who continued to demonstrate courage and share joy as they trained and competed in the sports they love. I am also proud of our athletes who continue leading and influencing efforts to deliver the mission to as many individuals with intellectual disabilities as possible across the state of Maryland.

The tables below tell a positive story of a fall season where post-covid participation levels continue to trend upward compared to last year with our near-term objective to return to pre-covid participation (2019 comparison) as a critical step toward increased participation in 2023 and beyond.  We saw no discernable trends based on individual and team sports, or outdoor/indoor sports.  We continue to assess the data, while also communicating with our athletes, families, coaches, and leadership volunteers to define strategies and tactics to reach more athletes. We also need to recruit more volunteer coaches to support the anticipated demand for increased athlete participation.

In addition to these competitive sports programs, our Young Athletes program is also trending in a positive direction. It’s valuable to reinforce the importance of this program as research shows that physical activity in early childhood (youth 7 and under) is an accelerator of cognitive development. Remember this is a Unified® Sports program that includes similarly aged peers without intellectual disabilities. It contributes to accelerated social development, particularly among those with intellectual disabilities. Young Athletes create an environment that fosters natural habits of inclusive behavior for all, as we continue the intentional pursuit of creating a Unified® generation.

As you read this the 2023 Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge is a month away. Our Super Plungers will lead us into the Chesapeake Bay on January 27th and 28th for a week-long celebration of our athletes and Plunging that includes the Cool Schools Plunge (February 2nd), Police Plunge (February 3rd), Corporate Plunge (February 3rd) and our Maryland Plunge (February 4th, 11:00, 1:00, 3:00). Remember You Plunge, so our Athletes can Play. Our Plungefest Plaza and The Rams Head Ice Lodge will be ready as we are eager to deliver our traditional family-friendly, fun Plungefest environment at Sandy Point State Park. Athletes…Adam Hays, Elaina Camacho, David Godoy, Peris Bennett,  Candice Herget, Bailey Mehwinney, Brandon Mclarin, Abby Gibbons, and Owen Reynolds are your 2023 Plunge Team Captains. 

In particular, for business leaders looking for a high-quality team-building experience, consider putting together a corporate plunge team and joining us for the best, most inclusive team-building experience of the winter. These athletes are leading our recruitment efforts by inspiring plungers at corporate plunge team kick-off meetings and law enforcement department command staff meetings while generally inspiring Marylanders to take the Plunge to support them and their fellow athletes.

Speaking of the Plunge, longtime Founding Partner, Aerotek, continues their generous support for the event. They will have their dedicated team of volunteers on site managing plunge registration. Wawa takes great pride in being Plunge’s partner as they will serve over 5,000 cups of coffee and hot chocolate during the plunge. We are so grateful for our longtime media Partners WBAL TV11, 98Rock, 1090AM/101.5 who help generate awareness about our mission and the plunge experience like no other. We’re grateful to the 45 Baltimore Area Chick-fil-A Restaurants for their incredible support as they have committed to match up to $55,000 of funds contributed through our Plunge telethon on WBALTV on January 27th and 28th and February 4th. We welcome back media partner NBC4/Telemundo 44 as they support our efforts to recruit more teams from Montgomery and Prince George’s County. We look forward to having over 10,000 Marylanders plunging into the frigid waters of the Bay in 2023, all to help us reach our goal to raise $3.5 million to support our athletes, Unified Sports® teammates, community coaches, interscholastic coaches, young athlete coaches, and volunteers all of whom are central to achieving our mission.

As we embark on a new year, our athletes will continue to be messengers of hope as they seek opportunities to expand our reach and transform Maryland. We know that meaningful, interactive inclusive experiences with our athletes are transformational. If you ever want a motivational speaker, we have plenty of athletes who can help inspire your team. Our athletes demonstrate daily, their ability to motivate people to give more of themselves than they ever thought they might. Our athletes have the power to transform in a way that builds interactive inclusive communities of dignity and respect.  As we enter 2023 the call to action continues to be one of support…support our athletes through a personal donation, as a participant at a special event, as a corporate partner, as a volunteer… and as an advocate. Stay in touch with us as we seek to engage more people in and through these interactive experiences. Join our athletes as they leverage sport and lead us in creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability.

I wish you the very best in 2023…

Experience Inclusion, Jim Schmutz