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plunging for a purpose

Jon and David Ricciarelli

Jon and David Ricciarelli

HOMETOWN: Cumberland, RI




Profession: Police Sergeant, Smithfield Police Department


Profession: Retired R.I. Municipal Police Academy Captain

What initially prompted you to get involved in the Super Plunge for Special Olympics Rhode Island (SORI)?

It was around June of 2018 while a member of my department’s Community Policing Unit that I attended a meeting as a liaison for the department at SORI in regard to the upcoming Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). During the meeting, they discussed the Super Plunge and what it entailed, and I was immediately hooked. I remember calling my Dad at the conclusion of the meeting and saying, “I just heard about something that’s a little crazy that supports the LETR for Special Olympics Rhode Island.” Before I even had a chance to ask him about participating, he said, “I’m in” and the rest is history so to speak.

David: We had both been long supporters of Special Olympics Rhode Island, so when Jon brought it up as a way to continue supporting the organization, I didn’t hesitate.


Describe at a high level the Super Plunge experience.

Jon: The best part of the Super Plunge is its ability to connect like-minded individuals who want to to do whatever they physically can, to support this amazing cause. With that being said, I would not be able to have as enjoyable of a time as I have without Team Captain Michael Bullock. During the entire 24-hour plunge, I don’t think 15 minutes goes by without hearing either words of encouragement or a movie quote from the Captain. Personally, it’s those moments that help me through the 2 a.m. low tides with high winds! Happy to have the Captain back this year!!!

David: The Super Plunge team members have become family. We all share the same commitment and drive to support the athletes. While we all hate cold water, the loss of sleep, and the psychological debilitation of the 3 a.m. plunge, we support one another in doing it together for a great cause. The camaraderie amongst my teammates is in and of itself inspirational.


Given that you’re plunging into icy waters every hour for 24 hours straight, are you able to eat or sleep at all?

Jon: Eat, yes! Sleep, Ha! Not so much. I probably eat and drink the equivalent of three Thanksgiving meals during the Super Plunge so I am able to maintain my energy. Huge thank you to all of the family and friends who help “Fuel the Fire!”

David: I have no problem with either! The older I get the more I cherish my sleep; a quick 10-15 minute nap between the later plunges is all I need.

How do you personally prepare for the Super Plunge?

Jon: As far as preparation goes, I’d be lying if I said I have any major plan. I pretty much wing it. However, for those of you who have seen me jump in the water, you’ll notice I do not subscribe to the belief of “suffering in silence.” As soon as I emerge out of the water, I’m pretty sure Block Island can hear me! Some might call it a scream, but I call it my battle cry!

David: I want to be as fit as possible and well rested. I also try to get in several plunges before our March work to stay as closely acclimated to cold water as possible.


During the Super Plunge, are there any steps you take or rituals you follow before and/or after each of the 24-hour plunges?

Jon: My routine is pretty simple: Get up, setup my suit and towels for my next plunge, watch the clock for the next plunge, plunge, wake up anyone who might be sleeping with my yelp, high-five my Dad, change into a dry bathing suit, jump into my sleeping bag, eat and repeat. Eventually, it all becomes a blur. Anytime it starts to weigh on me, I just look at my Dad and the rest of the team and see how they’re pushing through. Then, it’s just game on from there!

David: The early plunges are easy. We’re all excited at that point, but after sundown I always take a minute to look around at my teammates – especially my son. It helps me stay focused on why we’re all there.

Describe how you feel physically and emotionally after the final 24th plunge?

Jon: I’ll tell you this, by about 8 a.m. the day of the Torch Run Plunge, after plunging all night long, the adrenaline rush I get from seeing the setup, the athletes, family and friends, and the officers from other Police Departments, is unreal. Seeing how big the event gets each year is super special to me. To know I have a little impact on the day is truly humbling. I especially enjoy speaking with the recruits from the Municipal Police Academy who plunge with us. It’s important I feel that they understand their impact on the day. Usually, I ride that adrenaline rush until about three or four hours after the final plunge, just enough time to have some fun with my kids who claim they’ve missed me while I was gone. Then it’s off to one of the most amazing sleeps I get a year!

David:. Euphoric, with all the people especially the athletes and their families present. You’re no longer tired or cold.


Do you have a favorite memory from any of the Super Plunges you’ve participated in?

Jon: Last year’s Super Plunge was pretty special for me because my Dad, after experiencing a major health issue, was still able to be with me and participate in some way, even though he couldn’t do the actual plunges. He still managed to be there every step of the way, the entire Super Plunge. Even more impressive, despite not being able to jump in the water with us, he worked out with weights at the edge of the surf while I jumped in the water with the rest of the team. Although, I jumped in the water twice (once for me, and once for him) every hour on the hour, I still think that what my Dad did was more intense. He is a true leader and I am proud to call him my Dad.

David: Last year was interesting for me. Unable to be cleared to submerge completely, I thought about taking the year off, but just couldn’t do it. I asked the team if they would mind if I did calisthenics in the surf every hour during the 24 hours they plunged. They graciously agreed. It was perhaps the most difficult physical and physiological activity I have ever undertaken. Watching my teammates plunge while I couldn’t was difficult. I was tempted to disregard the doctor’s advice and join the team. But I had promised Ruth, my wife of 45 years, I wouldn’t submerge. She knows me well; the pressure was near unbearable and then Jon lifted the weight by doing double plunges. Without a word from me, he covered my responsibility to the cause.  I’ve always been proud of him but never prouder. He kept me going for the next 24 hours. You always take something new away from every plunge. Last year was priceless.

Another favorite memory is from our first year participating. Seconds away from our very first plunge, our teammate Bill Ziehl asked me if I wanted to do double plunges. I looked at my son and asked, “double plunges?” Jon looked at me and said, “okay” and we were in the water, twice. We did 50 plunges that weekend.


What message would you like to share with members of the public about your commitment to the Super Plunge and the athletes of Special Olympics Rhode Island, and about how members of the public can support this initiative?

Jon: We have some of the most amazing Special Olympics athletes here in Rhode Island. To the members of the public, I urge you to take a moment and see what these athletes are capable of. Experience this, and then ask yourself, “How could I not support such an amazing cause?” To my fellow police out there I say this:  in our profession we have very few opportunities to do something that is 100% undeniably good. This is one of those opportunities, and I am so grateful to be a part of the Super Plunge.

David: All of us, in some way, can support Special Olympics. If you don’t like cold water, you can become involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run. You don’t have to be a runner; you can walk. Come to the Summer Games or attend a Unified team game – most schools have one. Not into athletics or a sports fan? You can still volunteer, fund-raise or donate. We have told everyone who supports us in our Super Plunge to come down to the beach and meet the other members of the team. Anyone who has come down has never been disappointed. We have ball!

Aside from the Super Plunge, are you involved with Special Olympics Rhode Island in any other way?

Jon: Each year, I participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, usually running from Smithfield to the State House. However, I have also cycled from the first leg in Burrillville all the way to URI or the opening ceremonies, running several legs whenever other participants need a break from biking. I have also had the opportunity to be a member of the Honor Guard for the Northern RI Games multiple times and, most recently, the Honor Guard for Smithfield’s Pleasant View Elementary’s Banner School presentation.

David: I’m involved through the Law Enforcement Torch Run and currently serve on the RI committee.

Anything else you’d like to add about the Super Plunge or Special Olympics Rhode Island?

Jon: I would like to thank Tracy Garabedian, Senior Director of Special Events & LETR, for everything she does. At times, things can be pretty hectic but Tracy is always that beacon that drives us forward. Thank you so much Tracy!!!

David: By far, the best volunteer experience for any member of the law enforcement community. You get back more than you’ll ever give!

The Plunging for a Purpose Series

The “Plunging for a Purpose” series celebrates the indomitable spirit of the Torch Run Super Plunge participants. These remarkable individuals are gearing up for an extraordinary challenge: plunging into icy waters every hour for a relentless 24-hour stretch, starting at 1 p.m. on March 23 and concluding at noon on March 24, all at Salty Brine State Beach. Their goal? To raise vital funds and awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics Rhode Island. Through their dedication and selflessness, they inspire us all. Join us in supporting their cause by considering a donation to their remarkable endeavor.