It was a sight to behold at the Casper Family Aquatic Center on Friday night, as hundreds of people gathered to support Special Olympics Wyoming at the 2023 Jackalope Jump event.

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Several teams signed up for the event which was created to raise money for the various events and athletes that Special Olympics Wyoming sponsors throughout the year.

"Our Jackalope Jump is an annual event that we run, not only in Casper, but around the state," said Director and CEO of Special Olympics Wyoming, Jen Haines. "Any funds raised from this event go directly to support Special Olympics Wyoming athletes all around the state. It's definitely a lot of fun. We'll get people in crazy costumes and I can tell you for sure that the pool water right now is cold. I was just over there and it's freezing."

Indeed it was, but that didn't stop dozens of people from jumping into the pool at the Casper Family Aquatic Center on Friday night.

The water was cold, as was the February air, but hearts were warmed as countless people walked the plank for a purpose.

"It's a huge event for us this year," Haines said. "It's bigger than anything that we've had in recent years. This is our first full event, back in purpose since before COVID. And we've already raised more than $30,000 through community support. Manor Heights Elementary School has been a big supporter for the last few years, so we've got a lot of their kids jumping this evening. And they challenged some other elementary schools, so I believe Paradise Valley Elementary is on board and has a few jumpers this evening as well."

Haines said that this was the most money they've raised throughout the last few years, and she chalks it all up to the extremely supportive community. But it also gets such good results because events like this are just fun.

"Typically people dress up in whatever their team wants to jump in," Haines said. "This year, I know we've got some minions coming in and a variety of other costumes. I think Wizard of Oz is our staff team this year. Our slogan this year is 'Be Bold; Go for the Cold.'

And that's exactly what Casper did; they went for the cold. And they got it. And the craziest part about it is that they basically paid to do so. All of the funds raised go to various aspects of Special Olympics Wyoming.

"We are a nonprofit and we actually have active sports training and competition programs for athletes with intellectual disabilities," Haines said. "We have programs in every county in Wyoming right now. Specifically this evening, for tonight's event, a lot of this money is going to stay very local. We have several hundred athletes that compete here in Casper; from our traditional Special Olympics athletes to Unified Sports Partners who compete alongside our athletes. We have a large contingent of athletes and partners and support here in Casper. And a lot of the money that's raised at this event will stay directly here in Casper for our local athletes to compete in Special Olympics Wyoming events throughout the year."

The money raised through this event, more than $30,000 directly benefits athletes that give their all with each race, each match, each event. And they wouldn't be able to do that, they wouldn't be able to reach for the stars, if it wasn't for the support from the community.

"The community outreach and support for the Jackalope Jump around the state is incredible," Haines said. "It's one of our largest fundraisers each year, and it really does help sustain not only Casper, but we have 14 Jackalope Jumps around the state this year. So it provides phenomenal support through the state. If you've never been to a Special Olympics event, you just have to come out and really see the enthusiasm of our athletes and our community and how excited people get for Special Olympics. When you see it once, you're hooked. It only takes one time to see it, and feel it, and really feel like you're a part of that joy and experience that Special Olympics Wyoming brings to our community."

2023 Jackalope Jump Benefitting Special Olympics Wyoming

It was a sight to behold at the Casper Family Aquatic Center on Friday night, as hundreds of people gathered to support Special Olympics Wyoming at the 2023 Jackalope Jump event.

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