Hero Spotlight: Cathy Gidley

Cathy Gidley has participated and has supported the Super Plunge events a whopping 12 years (that’s over 250 plunges… and counting)!! It’s easy to say she is no stranger to getting cold and having fun! She is a happily retired VP of Corporate Partnerships at SOOR, but she hasn’t slowed down in supporting the Special Olympics athletes that inspire her love of continuing to plunge and sharing in the fun.

This year Cathy plunged in style by sliding out of an inflatable castle into the icy pool below.  All while supporting other fellow plungers and wearing her superhero-themed costume to the tunes of what else, the ICE ICE BABY song!!  Cathy continues to be a leader for the mission by promoting inclusion in the most fun and creatives ways!


Cathy Gidley, or “Gids as most call her, previously served as VP of Corporate Partnerships for Special Olympics Oregon and is now enjoying retirement.  As most people who get close to the mission and its athletes know, Special Olympics has a way of taking hold of your heart and never letting go.  “I was and still remain in awe of the athletes.  When I first met Atheena (SOOR athlete), she quickly won me over with her kindness, not to mention her athletic ability.  She is a naturally gifted athlete.  We have since become fast friends.  She knows when I need a hug or encouragement.  I can’t imagine my world without the athletes”, says Cathy.  Cathy has stories for days about her fun and meaningful experiences with SOOR athletes.


While Cathy appreciates having more free time in her life, she has made it a priority to stay connected to the mission.  One way she has done this was through a legacy gift in honor of her husband, Mike Gidley, who recently passed away after a long illness.  Losing Mike was a devastating event in Cathy’s life and her SOOR family tried to support her as much as possible.  Cathy generously made a legacy gift to Special Olympics Oregon to honor Mike and ensure his memory would live on through the athletes.  We are all so grateful for the incredible investment and commitment the Gidley family continues to show to Special Olympics Oregon.


What Gids looks forward to most every year is the Polar Plunge.  She has participated in the Super Plunge for a whopping 12 years (that’s over 250 Plunges) – some might say she is the Godmother of the Super Plunge!  For those who don’t know, Super Plungers traditionally live in a tent at Broughton Beach for 24 hours the night before the big Portand Polar Plunge and they plunge every hour for 24 hours into the river (with the help of the Portland Police Dive Team volunteering to ensure their safety).  Cathy’s survival tip for Super Plunge:  “Laugh, stay hydrated, keep as warm as possible between plunges and remember the ‘Why’ of Super Plunge.  The athletes do things that are difficult for them every day.  We can do something difficult for one day to honor the athletes.”


“Well, honestly, I was bummed [that the Plunge would need to be virtual versus in person] because the camaraderie is the glue that holds the Super Plunge together.  You will learn everything you need or want to know about someone when you spend 24 hours together!”  This year, Cathy was determined to keep her Super Plunge streak alive and created her own experience in her backyard at home – complete with a bouncy castle, slide, and icy pool.  She honored the Super Plunge traditions of plunging 24 times in 24 hours, dressing in costume for each plunge (pictured above in her Green Bay Packers cheesehead, and having theme songs – “Ice Ice Baby” being one of her favorites.  “The bouncy house sounded unique and still had an element of fun”, she shared.  Her neighbors had a ball watching her and many of the kids cheered her on.  “It helped keep me motivated and I scored points with the neighbors” as the kids were able to take socially-distanced turns going down the slide.


Cathy will forever be a part of the Special Olympics Oregon family and a leader in the tight-knit Super Plunge crew.  She can’t wait to get back to the in-person event, but was thrilled that the Super Plungers together raised almost $100,000 in 2021.  When asked what she hopes to see for the athletes over the next few years, she said she “would love to see regular programming resume for the athletes.  My hope is that state games will be back in full swing and the athletes will see their friends and get to compete.”  Cathy knows better than anyone how important the mission is to the athletes.  “Special Olympics is so much more than just sports.  It is lifeblood for athletes and their families.  To have a place to belong, make lifelong friendships and experience respect in action is priceless.”  You can expect Cathy to go into recruitment mode over the summer for the 2022 Super Plunge – if you want to participate in the craziest event and make lifelong friends, get to know Cathy Gidley!


Thank you, Gids – you are a force of good in the world and we are so lucky Special Olympics Oregon is on the receiving end of your boundless energy, kind heart, and fun spirit.  You are loved.


Interview by Britt Oase