They talked to each other as they ran toward the heated tent -- all of them dripping wet, shivering and smiling.
"Not as terrible as you thought, right?"
"I can't feel my feet!"
More than 300 people gathered in Palatine on a cold Sunday morning to do what most of us would consider unthinkable: jump into the icy waters of a pond at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area. They took part in the annual "Polar Plunge" to raise money for Special Olympics Illinois.
Some jumped into the water wearing clothes (or costumes) from head to toe. Others bared as much skin as they would on a beach in the middle of July.
"Waiting in line was actually the harder part," said Anna Lapinski, of Glenview, who made the plunge as part of a trio dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "Once we actually got in the water, it was pretty fun."
Lapinski's group, which also included Corrie Lukkes, of Mount Prospect, and Karin Brooks, of Arlington Heights, won a "Silver Plunger" award in the costume category. Brooks, who was participating for the first time, said she already plans to do it again in 2014.
"It's such a great cause," she said. "And aside from my feet, I actually didn't mind the water so much."
Sunday's plunge was the ninth to be held at Twin Lakes. This winter, more than 20 Polar Plunge events will be held throughout the state.
Dan Conley, director of Special Olympics Illinois Area 18, which includes northwest Cook County, said 335 people participated in the Twin Lakes plunge, raising more than $92,500. Statewide, the Polar Plunges are expected to raise more than $1 million, Conley said.
"It's incredible how many people participate, and how many other people we reach through them," he said after Sunday's event. "Especially at a time when it's harder for most people to donate money, We're really so thankful for everyone who helps out."
A 40-member team fielded by Hoffman Estates High School won "Gold Plunger" awards for largest team and for most money raised by a group -- roughly $14,900. One of the team members, Hoffman Estates High School parent Ralph Green, won the top prize for most money raised by a single person; he raised roughly $3,800.
Rudy Geilim, a member of the Hoffman Estates team, participated in honor of his son, Max, who is a Special Olympics athlete. He said the organization has had a life-changing effect on him and his son.
"It's helped my son's confidence, his socialization skills," Geilim said. "And it's been a source of support and friendship for my wife and me. Max had multiple surgeries before he was 4 years old. He had to use a walker. Back then I never thought he'd be able to do the kinds of things he does now because of Special Olympics."