Officer Ryan Tracy, of the Clawson Police Department, paddles on an inflatable raft and gasps at the frigid temperatures of the Clinton River Feb. 20.

Officer Ryan Tracy, of the Clawson Police Department, paddles on an inflatable raft and gasps at the frigid temperatures of the Clinton River Feb. 20.

Photos provided by David O’Connell


Clawson first responders’ Polar Plunge supports Special Olympics

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 2, 2021

 From left, firefighter Connor Winther, firefighter David O’Connell, Sgt. Scott Vierk and police officer Ryan Tracy pose for a photo after their Polar Plunge into the Clinton River Feb. 20.

From left, firefighter Connor Winther, firefighter David O’Connell, Sgt. Scott Vierk and police officer Ryan Tracy pose for a photo after their Polar Plunge into the Clinton River Feb. 20.

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CLAWSON — On a 22-degree Saturday, Feb. 20, four Clawson first responders plunged into the 40-degree waters of the Clinton River across from Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills to raise funds for Special Olympics Michigan.

Sgt. Scott Vierk, of the Clawson Police Department, said the Polar Plunge raised $3,173 for the nonprofit organization. While this was the first time the city’s first responders participated in the challenge, Vierk said they will most likely do it again next year.

According to Special Olympics Michigan, the Polar Plunge series raises more than $1 million each year.

“This unwavering support from Michigan residents, businesses and law enforcement members is crucial to helping provide inclusive sports, health and school programs for nearly 23,000 participants all across Michigan,” the nonprofit’s website states.

Vierk said he and Clawson police officer Ryan Tracy decided to try the Polar Plunge to get more involved in the community and were joined by Clawson firefighters David O’Connell and Connor Winther.

As their families and members of their respective departments gathered on the snowy banks of the river, the polar plungers prepared for their icy immersion in approximately 5 feet of water. 

Tracy, fully dressed in civilian clothing, shot into the river first and belly flopped with an inflatable raft and flamingo pool float. Vierk cannonballed in his police uniform, and firefighters O’Connell and Winther made the plunge in swim trunks.

“My expectation was it was going to be a lot worse than it was. We were all pretty nervous, but once we actually did it, we realized it wasn’t too bad,” Vierk said. “I’d like to thank everybody for their continued support of Special Olympics. We raised a lot more money than I expected we’d be able to.”

O’Connell said he was grateful that the Clawson Police and Fire departments could team up for a good cause again. 

“With COVID hitting, we haven’t been able to really do anything together, and I just thought it was a great opportunity,” he said. “It was definitely a first, but it was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely do it again next year.”

He said he hoped to have more first responders participate in the future and that the rollout of vaccinations would lead to a more “normal” year.

To view a video of the polar plunge, visit the Clawson Police Department’s Facebook page at facebook.com/ClawsonPolice.

For more information about Special Olympics Michigan, visit somi.org or call (989) 774-3911.

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