By Doug Halberstadt
This Saturday (March 1), thousands of people in Illinois will voluntarily jump into icy cold lakes around the state. What would motivate anyone to do such a crazy thing? It’s the signature winter fund-raising event for Special Olympics also known as the Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge.
This year, there are 20 locations throughout the state participating in the frigid madness. Our local plunge takes place at Olson Lake at Rock Cut State Park from 10 a.m. until noon. The brave individuals will don everything from fashionable summer swimwear to the looniest of costumes. The only thing not allowed is a wet suit.
Participants must raise at least $75 in donations from friends, family and co-workers in exchange for jumping into the icy waters in the middle of winter. Each plunger receives a Polar Plunge sweatshirt and entrance into a Post-Plunge Party, plus the chance to win additional prizes for raising more money.
Plungers must be at least 18 years old or have a signed consent form from a parent or guardian if younger than 18. No one may be carried into the water. Only registered plungers will be allowed in the water.
All proceeds collected by plungers benefit Special Olympics Illinois athletes. In 2013, more than $1.7 million was raised by more than 6,290 plungers. In 15 years, $10.2 million has been raised by more than 38,000 plungers! Last year, 450 people leaped into Olson Lake and raised more than $112, 500. If you don’t want to take the plunge, but still want to be part of the fun, you can support someone else who is taking the plunge. Visit firstgiving.com/soilltorchrun/fundraisers to make a donation or make plans on being at Olson Lake this Saturday to cheer on the polar bear wannabes.
A couple of years ago, I went out to witness a plunge firsthand. The thing that amazed me was how much fun everyone was having. I did not hear a single negative word about how cold it was or anything related to being uncomfortable. Personally, I don’t think I could ever muster up the courage to jump into an ice-covered lake, unless it was to attempt a rescue of a loved one. I have the ultimate respect for the participants in this event — they do it for the fun of it and to raise funds for a very worthy cause.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.