Fundraisers brave frigid Lake Michigan for Special Olympics

By Karie Angell Luc For Chronicle Media

Got sunscreen?

Your Speedo or itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini?

How about a toilet plunger to strong arm your body art tattoos?

Starting at 2 p.m. on a 60 degree sunny Feb. 17 afternoon, the SUPER Plunge in Evanston at Clark Street Beach along Lake Michigan (1811 Sheridan Road) kicked off the 2017 Polar Plunge season.

Dennis Reilly (center), an officer with Tinley Park Police, towels off after coming out of the water. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

The Evanston event, just south of the Northwestern University lakefront campus, is the first of 22 Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunges in Illinois to benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

“I’m as ready as I’m gonna be,” said Ed Godwin of downstate La Salle, a first time SUPER Plunger and of any Plunge.

“I brought a lot of warm clothes and extra swimwear.

“I raised a little over $2,500 and I feel good that’s it’s going for a great cause,” Godwin said.

Organizers hope to raise $200,000 for the SUPER Plunge only and for 2017 Polar Plunge season, they’re hoping for $2 million in fundraiser proceeds.

Nearly 60 SUPER Plungers included law enforcement personnel, Special Olympics representatives and volunteers who give of their time.

“Special Olympics has been a really big part of my life the last four years so it’s my senior year and I wanted to go out with a plunge,” said Rachael Sarette, 22, a Northwestern University student from Coon Rapids, Minn.

Ed Godwin of downstate La Salle brings a plunger to the Plunge. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“I’m very proud,” said Sarette’s mother Lori Lewandowski of Coon Rapids.

2017 is also the first SUPER Plunge for Sarette.

The SUPER Plungers go into Lake Michigan sandy beach waters once an hour for 24 hours until 1 p.m. Feb. 18. Water temperatures were estimated to be 34 degrees.

“The warm temps make this extreme event a bit more bearable but the water is still very cold,” said Sandy Nash, director of development of the Torch Run.

The Evanston Polar Plunge follows the SUPER Plunge with many groups such as school sport teams jumping into the fun and cause for their one and only dip.

Costumes are optional, but grit is required to beat waters which still showed ice along Lake Michigan’s North Shore. Itsy bitsy bathing suits were popular but wet suits weren’t allowed, sorry.

Each Plunger must have raised a minimum of $100.

Rachael Sarette (left), 22, a Northwestern University student from Coon Rapids, Minn. With her mother Lori Lewandowski of Coon Rapids. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Locations also include:

  • February 25 — Carbondale (Plunge & Dash), Carlyle (Plunge & Dash), Mahomet/Champaign (Plunge & Dash), Bloomington, Quincy, Mendota (new)
  • February 26 — Galesburg, Fox Lake
  • March 4 — Decatur, Manteno, Rend Lake, Rockford, Springfield, Effingham, Oak Brook
  • March 5 — Yorkville, Macomb
  • March 11 — Joliet
  • March 18 — Lincoln
  • March 19 — Rock Island

To register for a Plunge, or to support a plunger, visit the Special Olympics Illinois website at

Plunge into the conversation and share whom to support via #PlungeFor on Facebook and Twitter.

All proceeds benefit the 22,000 athletes and 20,000 Young Athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

In the mix is Dave Klawitter (left) of Frankfort and Jack Klawitter, 9, a fifth-grader from Frankfort.
(Photo by Karie Angell Luc / for Chronicle Media)

The Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run is the single largest year-round fund-raising vehicle benefiting Special Olympics Illinois.  This intrastate relay and its various fundraising projects have two goals: to raise money and increase public awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics.

Each year, more than 3,000 officers in Illinois run more than 1,500 miles carrying the Flame of Hope through the streets of their hometowns and deliver it to the State Summer Games in Normal in June.  Special Olympics Illinois is a year-round program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics programs are now in more than 170 countries with 4.4 million athletes.



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— Fundraisers brave frigid Lake Michigan for Special Olympics —