Remarkable Women: Emmerson leading the plunge

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — There are several events throughout the year that help raise money for Special Olympics in central Illinois. It takes a lot of planning and people to make them successful. In Champaign County, there is a remarkable woman who is a key player in keeping people motivated.

“This year, I am the Polar Plunge Ambassador again. I’m so happy. I’m so glad I’m doing it again,” Special Olympics athlete Emmerson Hjort said.

It is her 11th year diving into this role. She is 21 now, but has been participating in Special Olympics fundraising events since she was eight years old.

“There’s never been a time when she hasn’t just kind of picked up and done whatever she wanted to do. She’s very self-motivated,” Emmerson’s mom, Kathleen Williams, said.

She says her daughter is a go-getter. Emmerson’s goal is to spread that spirit to her fellow athletes, and it is a job she takes very seriously.

Bravery is Emmerson’s approach to life. Rushing into freezing cold water isn’t always easy, but she says it is an opportunity to challenge herself.

“It is so stinking cold. I’m like, I can’t. Let’s do this. But I got this,” Emmerson said when reflecting on this year’s Polar Plunge in Mahomet.

She says meeting new people every year is a highlight. She also looks forward to seeing familiar faces, too. Although Emmerson may not see them often, it is as if no time has passed when they reconnect.

“The level of friendship is something to be learned from,” Williams said.

Micah McMahon is a big part of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. He and Emmerson have been good friends for years.

“Emmerson has just been an inspiration. She keeps us moving. She keeps us going with her happiness,” McMahon explained.

Every summer, she proudly hoists the torch above her head, leading the way for officers and athletes. Emmerson shows up for her friends, no matter the time or place. She knows how big of an impact this fundraising money has on her community.

“I think it’s really wonderful to support us and to give us opportunities to do great things,” Emmerson said.

Those who know her say it is her heart and ability to pick others up when they are down that make her the perfect person to spread this message of inclusivity.

“[It shows] what you can do regardless of what society has deemed as a disability, and turn that disability into a strength. That’s what she does every day,” McMahon said.

Emmerson says the role of ambassador is not about recognition, but this honor of Remarkable Woman means everything to her.

“That makes me happy. That makes me want to cry, but it makes me happy. So, I love it,” Emmerson said.

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