ANACORTES — The Anacortes Police Department raised over $2,500 for Washington Special Olympics athletes on Saturday at the fifth annual Skagit County Dash and Splash Fundraiser.

In a windy 49 degrees, Skagit residents gathered at Seafarers’ Memorial Park and plunged into Fidalgo Bay as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run fundraising campaign.

“The fundraiser makes it so no athlete ever has to pay to participate,” said Ellie Hardwick, development manager of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Washington. “It allows us to support inclusion.”

The event, one of six Special Olympics fundraising plunges in Washington, began with a 5K run and ended with the plunge. The Skagit County Dash and Splash is one of the more popular events held by the Law Enforcement Torch Run campaign, organizer and police officer Janet Wilson said.

Around 20 people attended the Anacortes plunge, and more than half braved the frigid water.

“Some people like to sit out and laugh at the people who go in the water,” Wilson said.

The atmosphere of each plunge varies depending on the location, Hardwick said.

“This one is so community oriented, it’s so nice to be a part of,” she said.

Anacortes resident Sarah Kelley took the plunge for the fourth year in a row.

“I like the cause,” she said, “and jumping in the water is just kind of crazy and fun.”

Kelley and Anacortes native Sheila Brown, who lives in West Seattle, participated in honor of a high school friend whose son competes in the Special Olympics.

“I rallied yesterday and came all the way up here for the plunge,” Brown said.

Eighty percent of the funds raised by the event will support year-round sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities, according to a news release from the Anacortes Police Department.

The Washington Law Enforcement Torch run campaign raises over a half-million dollars annually for Special Olympics programs, Hardwick said.

— Reporter Julia-Grace Sanders: 360-416-2145, jsanders@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @JuliaGrace_SVH

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