Polar Plungers got a pleasant surprise this month when they showed up at Loon Lake in Yorkville to support the Special Olympics.
Instead of air temperatures hovering around the typical 35 degrees on March 5, the 374 registered plungers were treated to 58-degree weather.
“There were not as many shocked faces coming out of the water, but it was still ‘polar’,” said the plunge’s area manager, Amanda Nelson of the Special Olympics. “In past years, cutting the ice on the lake has become kind of a precursor to the event, and we didn’t have to do that this year.”
Nelson said the water temperature was about 40 degrees when plungers met at Silver Springs State Park to participate in the event’s 14th year.
Participants ranged from members of local law enforcement to corporate teams, high school student groups and of course, Special Olympics athletes.
“Our favorite teams consist of our athletes,” Nelson said. “They come up with the best costumes and themes.”
Wearing everything from tutus to super hero garb, brave plungers donned the silliest of costumes in the name of raising money for the Special Olympics. When all was said and done, more than $106,000 had been raised. This is up nearly $5,000 from the previous year’s plunge, Nelson said.
And while the weather was seemingly warm, even the bravest of the brave were feeling the water’s sting following their plunge.
Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird and his team of jumpers threw caution to the wind and hopped right into the frigid lake.
“It’s like a bunch of needles on you when you get out,” Baird said. “If it wasn’t windy it would have been nice, but it’s still cold getting out of that water, that’s for sure.”
Baird said that despite the brief moment of unbearable discomfort, he had a blast at the annual event.
“I enjoy doing it every year. It’s for a great cause,” he said. “This is an event that gets a lot of community support and it’s nice to see everyone come together.”
There were 22 polar plunge events held throughout Illinois this year. All proceeds collected by plungers benefit the more than 22,000 traditional athletes and 20,000 Young Athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.
“This fundraiser is a huge one for us,” Nelson said. “These funds go to supporting our programs year-round. It’s one of our most known events, and it really helps to raise awareness.”
Donations are being accepted through March 24. Those wishing to donate can visit Special Olympics Illinois for information on how to donate.
— Kendall braves frigid Look Lake for Special Olympics —