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updated: 3/2/2014 5:59 PM

Palatine plungers endure icy "needles" for a good cause

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  • The Palatine Fire Department Dive Rescue Team watches Sunday as Danny Solovastru of Morton Grove, dressed as a Minion from the "Despicable Me" movies, falls into the cold water during the Polar Plunge at Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Palatine. The event raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics.

       The Palatine Fire Department Dive Rescue Team watches Sunday as Danny Solovastru of Morton Grove, dressed as a Minion from the "Despicable Me" movies, falls into the cold water during the Polar Plunge at Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Palatine. The event raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Alex Laner of Buffalo Grove can't get out of the water fast enough Sunday during the Polar Plunge at Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Palatine. The event raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics.

       Alex Laner of Buffalo Grove can't get out of the water fast enough Sunday during the Polar Plunge at Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Palatine. The event raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

The only reason Nancy Knoerr took part in Sunday's Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in Palatine was her son, Adam.

Adam Knoerr, who died at 28 in August 2012 from injuries suffered in a scooter accident, had been an ardent polar plunger and a valued employee at Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO), where he worked with autistic children.

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His work, she said, "was his passion," something his mother and the 24 others that made up Team Adam helped keep alive Sunday.

"I would never do this, ever, except he can't do it anymore," Nancy said.

Team members stood at the head of the line at Twin Lakes Recreation Area, poised to plop into an icy hole in the water.

Several were decked out as Harry Potter characters, including Mount Prospect resident Mary Jo Peterson, dressed as Madam Pomfrey -- appropriate considering she is a school nurse.

She described the experience of plunging into the ice cold water as "refreshing." Her daughter, Mary Rose Peterson, dressed as Harry Potter -- but wearing a tutu.

Sunday's event benefited Area 18 of Special Olympics Illinois, which encompasses North Suburban Cook County.

Dan Conley, Area 18 director, said about 350 plungers were expected to take part, up from around 270 last year. By the time the plunging began, it was announced that $103,000 had been raised for Special Olympics.

Conley didn't mind that most of the attention given to polar plunges Sunday was generated by the appearance of television host Jimmy Fallon and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Chicago plunge.

"They can certainly handle the mass crowds we couldn't handle here," he said. "We're just so grateful for their support. They're giving us a huge awareness of this event."

Writing a check might be easier than submerging yourself in freezing water, Conley acknowledged.

"But you don't get the bragging rights," he added. "And it's not nearly as bad as you think. At least now the water is warmer than the air."

Chicago resident Lisa Musialowicz, dressed as Batgirl, was there to support the Arlington Heights police team.

"Jimmy Fallon, you have nothing on us," she said.

The plunge feels like "needles shooting into your body," Musialowicz said. In the past, she said, "I have been climbing out like a cat in water."

One of her teammates was Arlington Heights Police Officer Robert Coniglio, who dressed as Mr. Incredible from the movie "The Incredibles."

"It is very shocking on the body," he said of the experience.

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