By Deanna C. White
Most CPAs simply grab an extra cup of coffee to steel themselves for another grueling day during tax season. But this February, associates from Greensboro, North Carolina, accounting and business consulting firm Davenport, Marvin, Joyce & Co., LLP (DMJ) tried a much more "stimulating" approach to jump-start their day.
They donned their requisite black business blazers, grabbed their briefcases, and plunged, fully clothed, into the frigid waters of their local Wet 'n Wild water park – proving once again that DMJ is truly the type of firm "willing to go all in" for a good cause.
This year's February 23 "plunging," as it's known to veteran participants like those at DMJ, marks the thirteenth consecutive year the firm has participated in the annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics North Carolina, organized by the Guilford County Sheriff's Department.
"This event allows us to have fun, meet the community, and raise money for a fantastic cause. It doesn't get much better than that," said Mike Gillis, managing partner at DMJ.
But Gillis and fellow partner Dana Beeson, a long-time volunteer with the Special Olympics, say their participation is about much more than an "out-of-the-box" stress breaker during tax season or even the chance to demonstrate their belief in good corporate citizenship.
It's about helping Special Olympic athletes achieve their dreams – dreams, Beeson said, many athletes were told they would never be able to achieve.
"My step-daughter is a Special Olympics athlete, and very quickly, we saw the positive impact of Special Olympics in her life. Today my husband and I volunteer and coach the Guilford/High Point cycling program and have done so for more than twenty years," Beeson said. "From my experience, there's nothing like the joy on an athlete's face when he's able to ride a bike for the first time or when he has trained all summer and can now ride well enough to participate in a 5k road race."
In 2013, DMJ once again put Special Olympic athletes from North Carolina one step closer to achieving that goal when the firm exceeded its fundraising goal of $13,000. That achievement earned brave DJM plungers Emily White, Drew Saia, Eric Godfrey, and Jason King the "honor" of being the first team to dive into the icy waters.
They joined dozens of teams from across North Carolina's Piedmont Triad Community participating in this year's event, which raised a total of more than $40,000 for the Special Olympic athletes of North Carolina.
Since its inaugural plunge in 2000, DMJ has historically garnered the "Most Money Earned" title among participating organizations at the annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.
"Every year we look around and say, 'How did we achieve this?' We've had an amazing support system of firm members, clients, friends of the firm, and the community to be able to be so successful for so many years," said Caren Rodriguez, director of marketing and public relations for DMJ.
DMJ raised a few thousand dollars the first year it plunged, Rodriguez said, and has consistently raised the bar every year since, coalescing in this year's $13,000 donation. To date, the firm has raised more than $90,000 for the cause.
"It really makes me proud that so many people from the firm get involved and that we're consistently the highest fundraiser," Gillis said. "It shows that DMJ is more than just a place to work. It shows that we're good corporate citizens and we're proud of the philanthropic things we do."
What Gillis is more reticent to mention, however, is the fact that the inaugural splash he made as the event's very first polar plunger back in 2000 when the plunge was held at a local lake, made an indelible impression on the local community that has certainly made it easier for the DMJ team to fundraise for the event.
"It was the middle of tax season, so I just grabbed my briefcase, went down to the dock in my suit and tie, and dove in," Gillis said. "When I was done, I got out of the lake in my drenched suit and started walking back to the office. I said, 'It's busy season and I don't have time to change'."
Gillis, now widely known in Greensboro circles as "the guy in the business suit," retired from plunging in 2008, but every year DMJ firm members continue to faithfully take the dive in rain, snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures (buckets of ice are provided if the temp is too mild). It might not warm their bodies, experienced plungers testify, but it certainly goes a long way to warm their hearts – and the hearts of the athletes they support.
"Hearing from the athletes how our contribution has impacted their lives is very inspirational," Rodriguez said. "We really feel like we're torchbearers for this event. It has become part of the fabric of who we are."
Beeson, who has been honored with a Presidential Service Award for her contributions to the Special Olympics, said it's a generosity of time and spirit that also, ultimately, becomes part of who the athletes are as well.
"I have the opportunity to see DMJ's efforts in athletes' firsthand, to see how significantly a $10 or $100 contribution impacts one athlete," Beeson said. "I'm especially proud and grateful for my coworkers' commitment."
Special Olympics North Carolina represents more than 37,000 athletes and supporters and provides year-round sports training and competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Greensboro, North Carolina–based DMJ is one of the North Carolina Triad community's largest accounting firms and has been serving clients for over sixty years. The firm has more than sixty professionals working in offices in Greensboro and Sanford, North Carolina. For more information, visit the DMJ website.