EDITORIAL: Supporting Special Olympics Michigan shouldn't hinge on seasonal donations

Polar Plunge participants jump into 5-degree waters for Special Olympics on Feb. 17 at O'Kellys and Wayside.

More than 250 people took the plunge for Special Olympics Michigan at the annual Polar Plunge Feb. 17 in the Wayside Central parking lot.

It couldn't have been a better day: not too cold outside, sunshine and an atmosphere of enjoyment as people dressed as a mix of animals, superheroes and old folks dove into waters in the negative temperatures.

It was a good day, but as the numbers show, it wasn't a great one. 

This year, both funds raised and the amount of people jumping were down. By a lot: almost $20,000 and about 150 fewer participants, respectively.

It's easy to pat ourselves on the back when the community accomplishes something like this. Rightfully so — $60,000 is no small amount of money.

But the decline notes a problem, though, which comes after Polar Plunge. It comes after cute fundraising ideas like Penny Wars and sharing SOMI posts on social media.

While fundraising opportunities like this are amazing in the moment, we shouldn't use a chance to do one good deed as a reason to lose sight of why our community does this: to support SOMI.

Right now, more than 23,000 athletes in Michigan participate in Special Olympics, in 24 different sports, at no cost to the Olympians' families. A staggering 31,606 volunteers keep the organization running with an additional 3,278 coaches working with SOMI to train participants. 

The organization might appreciate unskilled labor or well-intentioned volunteers, but like most charities, it appreciates one thing more than that: your donations.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can't really do anything. In this case, that means acknowledging while volunteering with SOMI might seem nice on the surface, there's not a lot that untrained college students have to offer to the organization. 

SOMI needs our help, but they need it through funding. As a nonprofit organization, it means SOMI solely relies on it — financial gifts from corporations or kindhearted people like you — to keep the doors open.

So the next time you're considering spending a few extra dollars on a video game you might not need or a shirt that looks exactly like the three others already hanging in your closet, consider using that cash for charity.

In the grand scheme of things, every penny does count.

An organization can't support its athletes if it can't afford to host competitions. 

Thankfully, since it first opened its state headquarters in Mount Pleasant during the early 1970s, SOMI hasn't been in that dire of a predicament.

Let's keep it that way.