Groups have done this locally every year since 2009. But their
silliness, while enjoyable for all the spectators, is much more than
fun and games for the participants. It means fun and games for
thousands of young people and adults who every year get to
experience the joy of "special" Olympic games geared just to them.
More than 21,300 Special Olympics athletes and nearly 13,000 young
athletes have benefited from the more than $10.2 million that has
been raised by over 40,000 plungers in the past 15 years.
The Polar Plunge for Special Olympics began in 1999 at Lake
Bluff. That year 150 people took the plunge and raised over $34,000
for Special Olympics programs across the state. By 2004, there were
12 plunge sites. That year a total of 1,073 plungers raised nearly
$191,000 for Special Olympics.
In 2009, the Lincoln community joined in the fun and in the first
year raised $25,000 with several dozen people running into the lake.
Afterward everyone was invited back to the Knights of Columbus Hall
in Lincoln for a beach party that included hot food and drinks and
special celebration activities.
In 2010, Lincoln upped the ante, raising over $37,000. The team
raising the most was the DeKalb team at $12,442, and the local
Wal-Mart team came in at $8,119.72. That year the outside
temperature was 40 degrees, but sunny weather brought the water
temperature up to a steaming 50 degrees.
In 2011, Lincoln once again proved what it was made of, raising
$45,682 for Special Olympics. The team that stood out that year was
Team Wal-Mart, a group that consisted of 15 members and raised
$11,335 on their own. They also challenged Wal-Mart corporate to
match their money, and the company came through with an additional
$11,000 for Special Olympics.
2012 was a very good year for jumping in the lake. The outdoor
temperatures exceeded 70 degrees on plunge day, bringing out
approximately 180 plungers. It was also St. Patrick's Day, so many
of the plungers put on their green to go jump in the lake. The big
winner that year was the Lincoln Junior High School Trojan team that
raised over $6,000.
Last year, 2013, the plungers saw a chilly day with water
temperatures at the lake being only 36 degrees. Nonetheless, 204
plungers took the dive and raised almost $50,000 for their efforts.
The SOILL Board Backers took the prize for the most money raised
with $10,920. Among the many other prizes given out at the
after-party was an award for the team with the most plungers. That
honor went to the LJHS Trojans with 30. The best costume awards went
to Farmers Bank and Team Army.
During last year's after-party, the honorary plungers for the
2014 event were also named, which will be the "Lynx won't sink"
team. As the honorary team, they will be the first to dive into the
water. Whether or not that is actually an honor may be questionable
for the group, as they will be the first to experience and express
what it feels like to be soaking wet in frigid water. Given
responses from past years, everyone will be happy to be there, "Freezin'
for a Reason."
[to top of second column]
Other teams that will be returning this year are the Lincoln
High School and Lincoln Junior High teams, and Eaton will be
back as well as Wal-Mart.
There will also be some new teams this year, among them a group
representing the Mount Pulaski school district.
On Saturday, plungers are asked to gather early at the Lincoln
Knights of Columbus.
Registration and turning in of donations begins at 10 a.m. At
noon participants and spectators will be bused out to Lincoln Lakes
for the plunge.
After a few words from guest speakers and the singing of the
national anthem, the first team will come to the edge of the water,
and with the sound of the starter pistol, plunge in, feet first.
Rules for the plunge include no diving in headfirst, although
there have been a few who did cartwheels after getting in the water.
Teams may wear anything but a wet suit, and costumes are encouraged.
Also, no one can go into the water barefoot.
There will be changing tents at the lake so plungers can get out
of their wet clothing before being bused back to the Knight of
Columbus for the after-party.
Finally, one does not have to be a member of a team to take the
plunge. Individuals who wish to participate and have raised the
required $75 minimum can register the day of the event and will be
sent into the water with other groups of individuals.
Food will once again be served free of charge to plungers and
with a minimal fee for guests at the Knights of Columbus. The
after-party will include announcements about dollars raised and the
Prizes will be awarded to individuals who raise $250, $500 or
$1,000. Other special acknowledgements usually include the oldest
plunger, the team with the most members, teams with the best
costumes and much more.
And, the public is encouraged to come out Saturday as well. Cheer
on your favorite team, enjoy the costumes and antics of the plunge,
and be sure to buy a "Too Chicken to Plunge" T-shirt at the
[By NILA SMITH]