Go Jump in the Lake…for Special Olympics

Participants get ready for this year's Polar Plunge.  (Will Stevenson Photo)
Participants get ready for this year’s Polar Plunge. (Will Stevenson Photo)

It must take a certain kind of person to voluntarily jump into Lake Storey…in February…when the water temperature is below freezing and as much as a 17-inch-deep sheet of ice had to be cleared from part of the lake first.

“They must be, and I am so thankful they are crazy.  Every year, they continue to amaze me.”

That’s Cathy Betar, area director for Special Olympics Illinois, after finding out that over 280 people raised a record $52,176 to take part in the annual “Polar Plunge” yesterday.

Some dressed in costumes ranging from “minions” to a human representation of the “Polar Vortex” — while others dressed in shorts and swimsuits.

Amanda Stenger of Galesburg brought with her a cardboard replica of a Jamaican bobsled, while another member of her team looked like a member of the U.S. Curling Team.
Stenger tells WGIL her get-up served a dual purpose.

“Our niece’s birthday was [Saturday], and she wanted an Olympic-themed birthday,” Stenger said.  “So, every family dressed as a country, so we thought we could do a two-for-one-type thing this weekend.  So, we decided to make a bobsled.”

But Betar tells WGIL no matter what they dressed in, the plungers all made a huge difference.

“It goes for Special Olympics right here in Western Illinois, for the more than 700 athletes that we work with,” Betar said.  “Special Olympics is free to those athletes.  We never charge them or their families to participate.  It goes to put on all of the programs and all of the sports, and pay for all of their medals, and for them to advance on to national and world games.”

Janelle Dodge is one of those who participated, and tells WGIL Special Olympics has long been a part of her family.

“I have a nephew who was born with Down’s Syndrome last year,” Dodge said.  “I’ve been involved in Special Olympics for a really long time as well, before that.  It’s just a great cause, and it’s fun.”

Betar says many people still don’t realize that there is such a thing as Special Olympics, or that there are games not just in the summer, but all year round that the athletes take part in.
She says the money definitely helps increase awareness.

To see photos taken at this year’s Polar Plunge, CLICK HERE.

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