Fox Lake Polar Plunge like a day at the beach for brave swimmers
One year after it was frozen out by excessive cold, Fox Lake's Polar Plunge emerged from hibernation Sunday, with participants once again "freezing for a reason" in the annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois.
With temperatures in the 30s and the sun casting a warm glow, plungers dressed as everything from Muppets to cereal box characters seemed comfortable with conditions at Lakefront Park.
Kevin Kriner of Hampshire stood outside waiting for his sixth yearly plunge wearing short sleeves and shorts.
"I'm trying to get acclimated. The less clothes the better when you come out of the water," he said.
The only display of discomfort came when jumpers hit the cold water, with some spontaneously shouting expletives as they returned to land.
Adrienne Tischauser of Volo, a member of the Lambs Farm team, was plunging with her sister, Toni Castillo of Round Lake Beach, and her father, Manny Rios of Carpentersville.
"I thought I was going to lose my limbs," she said after going neck-deep in the chilly water.
Rios, a first-timer at age 71, said the experience was "not as bad as I thought it would be."
Far from showing the aftereffects, Rios, one of many who adjourned to the Blueberry Hill Bar & Grill following the event, took the microphone for karaoke.
"You have got to have a good time. That's what it's all about," he said.
Everyone seemed in a rush to get it done. The first plungers dived in about 10 minutes before the 1 p.m. starting time, and it was shortly after 1 p.m. that the last plunger resurfaced.
Jordan Feldman, Region B Director for Special Olympics Illinois, said an "agitator" was placed in the lake to move the water around so that even with last week's cold snap the lake near the park never froze over.
Participation was strong, although down slightly from 2018. There were 168 plungers who raised about $43,000, compared to around 200 and $60,000 in 2018.
Several plungers received awards, including the Lambs Farm team for raising $3,729. The team of Grant High School athletes captured the Cool School award for raising $2,240.
The Mundelein Police Department took home the plunger for the most money raised by a law enforcement department, with $7,159.
"I'm just glad it's all going to a good cause," Sgt. Rick Witt said.
One of the Mundelein team members, Lori Smith, earned a plunger for most money raised by an individual, $2,260.
Smith and her Mundelein cohorts also went above and beyond in the dress-up department, with the department winning the costume contest prior to the plunge. Members showed up as characters from various breakfast cereals, each wearing a cereal box necklace.
While representing Lucky Charms, Smith wore a green hat with a four-leaf clover and a replica Masters green jacket she borrowed from her boyfriend. It managed to survive the dive in the water.
"That's how much I know my boyfriend loves me," she said. "He is letting me wear it into the water."