The pool is just as cool at Fox Lake Polar Plunge
Nearly 500 come to Fox Lake to take a dip for Special Olympics
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The ice was a bit thick for this year's Polar Plunge for Special Olympics at Fox Lake's Lakefront Park.
So organizers were forced to pool their resources.
With the lake's ice 18-24 inches thick, plungers were forced to dive into inflated pools filled with chilly water on the shore instead.
However, the event's nearly 500 participants discovered that a backyard pool can be just as cold as an ice hole in the middle of the lake.
"I've never been as cold in my life," said Payton Lykins, a student at of McHenry East High School. "It was worth it, though. I'm glad I did it."
Fox Lake police Lt. Jeff Norris, who has been involved with the event since its inception in 2007, participation and fundraising were up from last year.
More than 470 people enrolled in Sunday's plunge, raising more than $114,000. It was an improvement over last year's total of 430 participants and $86,000 raised.
The money goes for training, equipment, transportation and lodging for Special Olympics athletes.
With the temperature hovering around the 30-degree mark, the plunging began shortly after 1 p.m. Some emerged screaming, and others were still shivering minutes after their dive. But all would do it again for the good cause.
"It was fantastic! It was awesome!" said Lake Villa resident Dave Zahn who, along with Scott McConlogue of Lake Villa, donned fake "Duck Dynasty" beards for the occasion.
Thomas Guenther, chief of the College of Lake County Police Department, said the plunge didn't feel too bad.
"I just kept thinking, ‘Hawaii. Hawaii. Hawaii,'" the Round Lake Beach resident said.
Chris Salituro, with the Patriot Plungers from Stevenson High School, said it was "a little cold and a little slippery, but fun."
He said he was a bit disappointed at not going into the lake.
"It's a little more extreme when it's in the lake," he said.
Since the event included a costume contest, the exotic garments exuded a Mardi Gras feel. For some, the madness concealed a noble purpose, if, in some cases, little else.
Shawn Alverson, who owns Route 12 Bar & Grill in Fox Lake, said he had made a deal to wear a pink Speedo if his group raised $2,000. It raised more than $3,000.
"I do not like cold weather. But it's a great cause," he said.
Grayslake police officers went with a Star Wars theme.
Fox Lake residents Kate and David Gauger -- the latter wore the blue hair of the Dr. Seuss character Thing 2 -- said there is a Special Olympian in their family, nephew, 33-year-old P.J. Brankin of Antioch, who has Down syndrome and has earned gold medals.
"We do this every year, because Special Olympics has been very good to him," he said. "We do our part to keep it going."
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