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Brrr! Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunges start this weekend

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Individuals and teams can register for the Plunge on the Special Olympics Illinois website,, or by contacting Special Olympics Illinois staff.

All plungers will receive gifts, compete for prizes, and enjoy food and camaraderie with other chilly participants. The more money a plunger raises, the more chances he/she will have to win a four-night trip for two adults to Cancun, Mexico. For every $500 a plunger raises, he/she will get an entry into the drawing for this grand prize.

To donate to Rady’s campaign for Special Olympics Illinois, visit

Updated: March 22, 2014 6:11AM

ELGIN — Local resident Tracy Rady is in for a cool afternoon March 1. Make that a cold one. A very cold one.

Rady will be among hundreds of people across the state participating in a Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) — events that get underway this weekend.

“This year, we are expecting it to be the worst for conditions,” Rady said. “All we are hoping for is a sunny day with light winds. We have been told the ice is 12 inches thick, and they will have a team with chainsaws and bulldozers to clear a hole in the ice for us to plunge.”

The long-range forecast thus far has daytime high temperatures possibly in the teens as February gives way to March and the thermometer maybe hitting the mid-30s as the calendar pages turn.

This will be Rady’s third year doing the polar plunge for Special Olympics Illinois, dipping into Lake Manteno in the far southern suburbs. She got into the event through her friend Christopher Soderlund, and Channahon Police Chief Joe Pena, who used to be East Dundee’s chief and who is known for his years of involvement with and fundraising for Special Olympics Illinois.

According to a release on the SOILL website, the plunges have grown from one location in 1999 to 20 held this year at wet spots over weekends in February and March.

This weekend, plunges are taking part in Bloomington, Carbondale, Carlyle and Quincy on Saturday, and at Fox Lake and Galesburg Sunday. And the biggest of them all will be the super plunge, where participants who have raised a minimum of $2,500 each run into Lake Michigan once an hour every hour for 24 hours starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Northwestern University’s North Beach in Evanston.

Rady said plunges are moving forward as planned in spite of the harsh winter, with some modifications at some venues due to the extreme conditions and safety considerations.

Participants don bathing suits, costumes or any clothing of choice but for wet suits to jump into the lakes. Each person taking part also must collect a minimum of $75 in donations that will be used to support Special Olympics programs in Illinois.

Plungers are encouraged to form teams, and all team members’ individual fundraising totals are merged to form a combined team total. Teams are placed into divisions based on size and are awarded prizes for the most money raised.

“I am on a team of 66 named the Crestwood Copsicles that have collected 22,700.55 to date this year,” Rady said. “Collectively, I have raised $7,673 in those three years for the more than 22,000 adults and children with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics Illinois. So far this year, I am at 2,335.”

As for why she braves the elements for the cause, Rady said, “Having some of the athletes come out and cheer us on in a reversed role is one of my favorite parts. It warms my heart to know we can give them some joy in their lives and make a difference, as we have heard from their many stories.”

“Quite honestly, I plunge for the parents,” Rady added. “Their love and support is ceaseless, their stories amazing. If we can help them with their family members who are challenged, it warms my heart even if it is while I am plunging into a frozen lake.”

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