Taking the plunge

to support local charities

Illinois Special Olympics
Illinois Special Olympics (Provided photo)
Illinois Special Olympics
Illinois Special Olympics (Provided photo)

You might have seen images or videos of people plunging into the frigid waters of a local lake on a winter day’s wearing costumes or pants and T-shirts – quite the contrast from the layers of puffy coats, scarves and hats people usually wear to stay warm this time of year.

Taking a dip outdoors before summer in northern Illinois isn’t for the faint of heart, but many brave the chilly waters to support a worthy cause. This winter, various plunges will be held in lakes throughout the state as people raise donations in exchange for jumping into the icy waters.

One of the largest events, The Polar Plunge, presented by the Law Enforcement Torch Run and GEICO, will be held at 23 locations throughout Illinois. All funds raised go to provide programming and events for more than 22,000 traditional athletes and 21,000 young athletes participating in Special Olympics in Illinois.

“Each year, the Polar Plunge challenges thousands of warm-hearted individuals at numerous locations across the state. It’s a great way for everyone – individuals, organizations and businesses – to support Special Olympics Illinois,” says Alexandra McMillin, Special Olympics Illinois communications director.

The first Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunge was held in 1999 in Lake Bluff with 150 plungers raising more than $34,000. From there, the event grew with new plunges added throughout the state.

In addition to the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, other organizations hold plunges to support local charities. The Shamrock Shivers Polar Plunge, for example, raises money to support Lake County Cares. The organization leads volunteer efforts in Lake County from holiday gift-giving and food drives to partnerships with local cities and schools to plan “Days of Service.”

Earlier this month, hundreds of people dipped into Heritage Harbor in Ottawa to raise money for Make-A-Wish of Illinois during the Penguin Plunge. For more than 30 years, Make-A-Wish of Illinois has granted more than 14,000 wishes to children in Illinois who are diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.

Diving in
Whether it’s your first time taking the plunge or you’re a veteran plunger, here’s what you need to know before diving in:

• While many plunges encourage participants to wear costumes, organizers caution plungers to be respectful of others by making sure their costumes are appropriate and non-discriminatory.

• The plunge could be shortened, delay or even cancelled in case of inclement weather. Since the money raised is considered a donation to Special Olympics, refunds will not be offered, but McMillin says Special Olympics of Illinois will allow people to transfer to another event in the event a Polar Plunge is cancelled.

• Don’t forget to bring with warm clothes and a pair of dry shoes to change into after the plunge. You’ll also want to bring a bag to put your wet clothes and costume in following the plunge.

Ready to take the plunge? Here’s a listing of plunges supporting local charities near you.

Super Plunge
Begins at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, through noon Saturday, Feb. 17, at Lake Michigan – Clark Street Beach, Chicago. Contact Sandy Nash at (309) 888-2552 or snash@soill.org.

Over a 24-hour period, plungers will take 24 icy dips (once an hour, every hour) into Lake Michigan as part of the Super Plunge to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. During this round-the-clock event, all Super Plungers and their sidekick/support person will live in a heated tent on the beach. Past participants have included students, law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers and various business professionals. Each Super Plunger is asked to raise a minimum of $2,500 to participate in this event. Additionally, a Family & Friends plunge will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 and at 10 a.m. Feb. 17. Those doing the Family & Friends plunge must raise at least $100.

Polar Plunge – Palatine
Noon Sunday, Feb. 18, at Twin Lakes, 1200 E. Twin Lakes Drive, Palatine. Contact Jordan Feldman (224) 234-8635 or jfeldman@soill.org.

Brave the cold icy waters while raising money for the Special Olympics athletes in Illinois. Plungers will receive incentive prizes based on the amount of money they raise. Those who raised the minimum $100 donation will receive an official Plunge hooded sweatshirt.

Polar Plunge – Lake Michigan
1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at Lake Michigan, 1811 Sheridan Road, Evanston. Contact Kristin Wisniewski at (847) 370-7370 or kwisniewski@soill.org

Dip into the icy waters of Lake Michigan during the Polar Plunge. Registration will be at 11 a.m. with the plunge at 1 p.m. Participants are asked to raise at least $100 in donations from friends, family and co-workers. Those who meet the minimum donation will receive a Plunge hooded sweatshirt. Other prizes will be awarded based on the amount raised.

Polar Plunge - Fox Lake
1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at Fox Lake, 71 Nippersink Blvd., Fox Lake. Contact Brenden Cannon at (224) 377-8378 or bcannon@soill.org. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. with the plunge at 1 p.m. Participants are asked to raise at least $100. Those who do will receive an official Plunge hooded sweatshirt. The money raised will support Special Olympics athletes. Prizes will be awarded based on the amount of money raised.

Polar Plunge – Oak Brook
1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Oak Brook Bath and Tennis Club, 800 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook. Contact Katie Grisham at (630) 545-3402 or kgrisham@soill.org.

Leap into the frigid waters at the Oak Brook Bath and Tennis Club while raising money for Special Olympics. Registration begins at 11 a.m. Participants who raise the minimum $100 pledge requirement will receive a Polar Plunge sweatshirt. Other incentive prizes will be offered based on the amount of money raised.

Purple Plunge – Lake Zurich
11 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at Breezewald Park, 125 N. Old Rand Road, Lake Zurich. Email info@purpleplunge.org or visit www.purpleplunge.org.

Registration and check-in will be from 9 to 10:45 a.m. at Scoreboard Bar & Grill, 84 N. Old Rand Road, before the plunge kicks off at 11 a.m. After the plunge, head back to Scoreboard Bar & Grill for a post-plunge party featuring food and drink specials, raffles and awards for best costumes. Cost is $20 per plunger. Funds raised supports Purple Plunge, which provides financial assistance to those battling cancer to offset day-to-day expenses, such as offering money for gas or childcare. After losing two family members to cancer, organizers started the Purple Plunge in 2014 to support those in Lake Zurich and surrounding communities who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Polar Plunge – Rockford
Noon Saturday, March 3, at Rock Cut State Park Olson Lake, 7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park. Contact Debbie Kelly at (815) 739-2052 or email dkelly@soill.org.

Take a leap into Olson Lake while raising funds to support Special Olympics athletes. Pre-registration will be held from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Stables, 87 S. Galenda in Dixon; and from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Peak Sports, 4401 Peak Drive, Loves Park. On-site registration begins at 10:30 a.m. March 3. Plungers must raise at least $100. Prizes will be awarded based on amounts raised, including a sweatshirt to those who raise $100.

Polar Plunge – Yorkville
1 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Loon Lake – Silver Springs State Park, 13608 Fox Road, Yorkville. Contact Amanda Nelson at (630) 942-5616 or email anelson@soill.org.

Registration begins at 11 a.m. Plungers are asked to raise $100 in donations in order to plunge into the icy waters of Loon Lake. Money raised will support Special Olympics. A post-plunge party will be held immediately following the plunge. Prizes are awarded at the $100, $250, $500 and $1,000 levels.

Polar Plunge and Donut Dash – Joliet
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, Leisure Lakes, 21900 SW Frontage Road, Joliet. Contact Patty Welsh at (708) 929-2113 or pwelsh@soill.org.

New to this year’s plunge is the Polar Donut Dash that tests both your speed and your donut eating skills. Runners will make multiple donut stops during the race and receive a minute deduction from their overall time for each donut they eat. Cost is $30 in advance or $35 onsite. Awards will be given to the top three runners in each age category. After the race, cool off with the plunge at noon. Plungers will receive prizes based on the amount of money they raise and get a Plunge sweatshirt for meeting the $100 requirement. Money raised from both events supports Special Olympics of Illinois.

Lake County Cares Shamrock Shivers Polar Plunge
12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Forest Park Beach, 220 E. Deerpath Road, Lake Forest. Register at www.LakeCountyCares.org.

Take a dip in Lake Michigan while raising funds for Lake County Cares, a nonprofit organization dedicated to leading local impact in Lake County through direct service programs and volunteer programs for youth, families, individuals and community-committed corporations. After the plunge, warm up by the fire in the beach pavilion and enjoy refreshments from a hot cocoa bar and live music. Costumes and St. Patrick’s Day themes are encouraged. Prizes will be awarded for best individual costume, best team costume, highest individual fundraiser, and highest team fundraiser. Registration costs $35 for individuals and $95 for families.