A team of seven Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) Super Stars dressed in fish attire for a shocking Polar Plunge into the icy waters of San Francisco Bay at high noon on March 3. It was the annual Law Enforcement Dash & Splash benefitting Special Olympics Northern California, and their plunge was the grand finale of a 5-K run that began and ended at Aquatic Park.
“It did feel like a polar plunge because it was rather cold that day. It hailed on the ride back,” said SCPD Assistant Chief Dan Winter, a Special Olympics Board Member and State Director of the Northern California Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The 6th Grade Super Skittles from San Jose partnered with the Super Stars for the Dash & Splash. SCPD Cpt.Wahid Kazem’s daughter, Malia, and his wife, Amy, organized the team of 11 classmates and four parents.
The Polar Plunge is not a matter of just dipping your toe in the water and saying you did it.
“It’s not official unless you put your head in the water,” said Wahid Kazem, who has never taken the plunge, saying, “I don’t do cold water.”
Last year, Wahid Kazem said Winter dunked Malia’s head into the water while he (Wahid Kazem) held her towel, qualifying him as an official “chicken.” Wahid Kazem has, however, run the Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run all but three of his 21 years with SCPD.
The Super Skittles—named and dressed after the brightly-colored candies popular with kids—wore multi-colored tutus and socks and won the award for Best Costume. They also won the Top Cool-School award for raising $4,100.
“I like to raise money for the Special Olympics athletes because I like to see them participating in the same sports that I enjoy,” said Malia Kazem, who enjoys swimming and basketball. “I had a lot of fun being with my friends and raising money for a good cause.”
“My family is big into Special Olympics. It’s one of our favorite charities,” said Wahid Kazem.
His late mother-in-law, Susan Wright, was a special education teacher and his late father-in-law, Jerry Wright, retired from SCPD as captain in 1997, after serving 27 years.
“Supporting the Special Olympics is incredibly meaningful for me. Growing up watching my mother so fiercely supporting and loving her students in her special education classes had a tremendous impact on me,” said Amy Kazem, who swam laps as a child to raise money for Special Olympics. “Watching my father’s passion as a police officer was equally impactful. I could not create a more perfect event to honor both of their memories.”
The SCPD Super Stars, participating for a sixth year, raised $1,800. When added to the amount raised by the 6th Grade Super Skittles, it was the most profitable Polar Plunge yet for SCPD.
In total, 684 San Francisco Dash & Splash participants raised over $181,000. Donations can still be made at www.sonc.org/solarplunge. Under “Events,” go to “Polar Plunge” to donate to individual teams.
Law Enforcement Torch Run
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics comes through Santa Clara on June 14. The Flame of Hope will be passed from San Jose Police Department runners to SCPD runners about 1 p.m. at the SCPD station, 601 El Camino Real. SCPD runners will hand on the torch to Sunnyvale Police Department runners on El Camino Real near Lawrence Expressway. The run ends at UC Davis, where the Special Olympics summer games are held June 22 – 24.
2018 is the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics. In northern California, Special Olympics enables about 21,500 children and adults with intellectual disabilities to train, compete and succeed year round in no-cost sports programs and competitions.
“I would encourage people to support Special Olympics and their goal of living in an inclusive society where people with intellectual disabilities are appreciated and respected for their talents and abilities,” said Winter.
“[Splash & Dash] is for an organization that supports the students my mom loved, alongside a police department that I’ve known my whole life, in the area (San Francisco Bay) where my dad worked as a Coast Guard investigator, and I got to do it with my daughter and her buddies, who did an awesome job fundraising,” said Amy Kazem. “I am so thankful for the Polar Plunge and all of the fantastic volunteers who work so hard to put it together.”