SONC Employee & Coach Raises $30K for Special Olympics

Double-Dipper. Triple-Dipper. Clerical Assistant. Cowboy. Coach.

Dan Anisman goes by a variety of names and wears many hats in his roles with Special Olympics (figuratively and literally – you should see his Stetson collection!). In 2020-2021, however, one accomplishment stood out amongst the rest: Dan raised more than $30,000 for Special Olympics Northern California (SONC).

A longtime coach with Team Oakland, Dan works for SONC as a clerical assistant and helps with updating, renewing, and processing athlete applications. His first Special Olympics experience was in 1982 and he began volunteering in 2001 after serving in the Peace Corps.


[Dan became gravely ill while with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and was saved by Dr. Mae Jemison, who went on to become the first African-American woman to travel to space. Watch their recent reunion via ABC7 Bay Area.]


Dan first got involved in the Polar Plunge in 2009 when the popular fundraiser began in Northern California. Through the years, Dan regularly participated in the Plunges and steadily grew his fundraising goal: from $5,000, to $10,000, and so on.

“At first I really didn’t know what I was doing as far as fundraising,” he said. “But I just kept at it.”

Fast-forward to recent years and Dan is known as “Double-Dipper Dan” for taking the Plunge in multiple locations in a single year. Dan has Plunged in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento in different years. In 2020, Dan had set a goal of raising $20,000 (“20K for 2020!”) and was planning to upgrade to “Triple-Dipper Dan” by Plunging in all of his previous locations - San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento – in the same season.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 South Lake Tahoe and Santa Cruz Polar Plunges. But Dan kept at it. He continued to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics and ultimately registered for the Community Virtual Torch Run in the fall. The Community Virtual Torch Run was a unique opportunity for members of the community to virtually play a role in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Dan is an avid runner, so the Community Virtual Torch Run was a perfect fit. But for him, it wasn’t about swapping his swim trunks for running shoes. It was – and always is – about the athletes.

“Team Oakland is my family. When I know that I’m fundraising for athletes, I want to do whatever I can. I see a uniform, or I see a basketball, and think, ‘I can help them get that.’ I like to have fun with it. But the reason I do it is my connection to the athletes. I just fundraise as much as I can and then keep going.”

Dan’s fundraising efforts continued throughout the Community Virtual Torch Run and into the beginning of 2021. Once he had hit $20,000, he thought, ‘why not go for more?’ When $30,000 came into sight, there was no stopping him. Dan officially broke the $30,000 mark on January 18, 2021, and finished his campaign with an astonishing $30,038 raised for SONC.

“My philosophy is to always think big when you’re fundraising,” said Dan. “You can’t be afraid that maybe you won’t make your goal. Just go for it. If you told me a year ago that I’d raise $30,000, I’d would’ve said you were nuts! You have to just think big and go for it.”

Dan fundraises through personal email, his “Double-Dipper Dan Digest” newsletter, social media, and direct outreach. He believes the No. 1 priority for successful fundraising is to tell a story. People don’t just want to hear about your goal, he says. They want to hear why raising money for Special Olympics is important to you, and what/whom that money will directly benefit.

"My inspiration for fundraising is Christy Dodge {SONC athlete & employee}," said Dan. "She is a role model for me to go for it and go all out. Christy is my coworker and friend, and she has raised almost $100,000 with her Polar Plunges and other events She is a rock star and my inspiration!"

A few of Dan’s fundraising tips include:

  • Tell your story and why Special Olympics is important to you.
  • Don’t bombard people, but keep them updated and engaged. Continuity is key.
  • Do a final push for fundraising right before your Plunge.
  • Use Facebook and social media.
  • Be persistent, while still respecting that people have their own lives and priorities (especially during COVID-19).
  • Have fun with it.
  • Use humor.


“I’ve always been enthusiastic,” said Dan. “But at Special Olympics, I’ve found my niche. I found exactly where I can put my enthusiasm. I’m learning another part of what Special Olympics is all about. It’s been great.”

In total since 2009, Dan has raised more than $68,000 for SONC athletes. He misses being with his teams on the court or field but sees his fundraising efforts as a way to bring the community together.

“It’s been wild,” said Dan.” I’m just so happy. Everybody made it happen – it’s all a team effort. I’ve been so touched by the generosity of my friends, family, and everyone who has donated. It’s all for the athletes.”



You can register for the 2021 Plunge and join Dan in raising funds for Special Olympics!

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