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Diving in for a Good Cause
It ends one Sunday in March when Robert dons a fun costume and jumps into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan for the annual Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Chicago.
“I raise money each year for Special Olympics Chicago to help adults and children with special needs because I have friends and family members in this situation,” he says. “The Polar Plunge is a great opportunity to gather a group of people to give back to the community.”
Last year, Robert was one of 670 members of the ComEd Coolers team who broke both company and event records as the largest team in Polar Plunge history. The ComEd team raised more than $270,000 in 2017.
ComEd’s leading contributions to the Special Olympics cause at the Polar Plunge over the last several years have earned the red-shirted ComEd Coolers a spot at the head of the plunging line, with hundreds of ComEd volunteers storming the beach to start the event.
Robert says he’s looking forward to plunging again at the 18th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge slated for March 4 at North Avenue Beach. The annual fundraiser benefits approximately 6,000 athletes from Special Olympics Chicago.
Robert, a senior business analyst at ComEd and who has been with the company for 39 years, is one of ComEd’s most loyal plungers. Robert has rallied his colleagues for the past six years to donate to the cause, dress up in their craziest costumes and jump with him into the lake.
“Mostly everybody who does the Polar Plunge dresses up in something crazy,” he says. “The crazier the better. The goal is to have fun and bring awareness about people with special needs. We do all of this for them.”
Robert’s costumes have evolved from him donning a simple bathing suit for his first plunge in 2013, to becoming a human lightbulb in 2014, a cheerleader in 2015, a shark in 2016 and mimicking bathing beauty Esther Williams in 2017.
“I encouraged a lot of my colleagues in the Customer Services Department to join me in dressing up as Esther Williams. It was crazy and perfect!” His department raised $25,000 that year. This year’s costume is under wraps until the big day, he says.
ComEd’s Shay Bahramirad, the director of distribution system planning, smart grid and innovation, was the program’s top individual fundraiser last year.
She raised $31,800 for the 2017 Polar Plunge. “When you have friends all over the world, and a great cause to be part of, and proud of what your company contributes to, it all makes it easy to ASK! My friends and family from all over the world donate to the cause,” says Shay.
“This is an important cause,” Shay adds. “Special Olympics Chicago offers training and competition opportunity in sports to athletes with special needs, something that is too often denied to them. It’s our responsibility to help organizations like Special Olympics Chicago do what they can to help our neighbors demonstrate their courage and dignity in a fun way.”
Mentioning that the Polar Plunge is one of the highlights of her year, Shay adds, “It’s inspiring to see so many of my colleagues coming together, wearing ComEd t-shirts to promote an important cause. It’s a great reminder of our unity.”
How does she prepare for the plunge? Shay responds, “I don’t, I just jump in – literally and figuratively.”