Special Olympics Illinois modifies popular Polar Plunge event for pandemic

  • Annual Polar Plunge fundraiser events for Special Olympics Illinois will be changed this year because of the pandemic. A new initiative called Plunge At Home will encourage people to avoid the crowd at local ponds and lakes.

    Annual Polar Plunge fundraiser events for Special Olympics Illinois will be changed this year because of the pandemic. A new initiative called Plunge At Home will encourage people to avoid the crowd at local ponds and lakes. Daily Herald file photo, 2018

 
 
Updated 1/1/2021 9:52 AM

One of the biggest annual fundraisers for Special Olympics Illinois is the Polar Plunge, where people gather to do their best impressions of penguins and walruses by taking a winter dip in a local pond or lake.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic has made gatherings unsafe, this year Special Olympics Illinois is offering a new way to participate -- Plunge At Home.

 

Organizers ask participants to improvise by maybe plunging into icy water in a bathtub, jumping into a pile of snow or even pouring icy water on their heads.

"We encourage people to take the plunge in any meaningful way they can," said Alexandra McMillin, communications director with Special Olympics Illinois. "Maybe it's a snowball fight, maybe it's sledding. Anything that gets you cold."

Registration is available at soill.org/plunge-at-home. The Plunge At Home season runs from February through March.

Whatever plungers choose to do, organizers hope they get it on video so they can share the footage on social media.

"We really look forward to seeing people's creativity," McMillin said.

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Each year, Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunge events in Lake Michigan and elsewhere attract about 7,000 people and raise $1.8 million to $2 million. McMillin said she hopes the at-home format will satisfy loyal plungers and inspire new people to join as well.

McMillin said there will still be some traditional polar plunges hosted throughout the state. They will adhere to safety guidelines but might be canceled depending on the latest COVID-19 information.

The dates for most suburban in-person polar plunges, such as the events in Palatine, Fox Lake and Evanston, are still to be determined. The Oak Brook Plunge will be on March 6.

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