By Marianne Mueller

LOVES PARK – With warmer weather overhead layers of ice and snow were removed from Olson Lake revealing frigid waters. A total of 518 people were “Freezing for a reason at the 2015 Polar Plunge on Saturday, March 7.
A beautiful opening ceremony featured Lisa Hodges of the Rockford Park District. Her voice carried over the entire grounds of Olson Lake as she sang the National Anthem.
This year marked the tenth Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge in the Rockford area; setting records both in participation and in donations.
Many plungers opted to create or to wear fun, or original style costumes. An eye-catching dragon entered the way via a team. Another cool looking unit cam in the form of a Polar Bear. Some dressed as Power Rangers, or ballet dancers. The Incredible Hulk was easily spotted through detailed make up. Others plunged in somebody’s name or had a catchy name for their team. Among plungers was the Rockton Fire Department.
Debbie Kelly served as event organizer.
Inside a warm tent friends gathered, relaxed or threw beach balls around at an after plunge party. Participants enjoyed refreshments and hot dogs courtesy of Kiwanis Club members.
Special Olympiad Barry Tillema sent a positive message of what Special Olympics means. Every year he leads in stating the pledge, “If I cannot win, please let me be brave in the attempt.”
Top teams were recognized as Rockford Sam’s Club, Tutu’s for Taylor, Team Iddy Biddy Pool School and the Rockford Coppers. The top donors were Dave and Brook Klawitter.
Forty-four teams plus individual plungers bravely took the challenge, all in the name of helping thousands of people who face challenges daily become champions!
The first Special Olympics games began via Eunice Kennedy Shriver on July 19-20 at Soldier Field in Chicago. That was in 1968. Since then programs have witnessed great expansion. Over the years thousands of children or adults with intellectual disabilities have been helped through these efforts.  Caring, warm hearted teams and individuals came together rising over $117, 019 to keep Special Olympics programs and games going!

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