A team of plungers creates a real splash on their exit out of icy cold waters at Olson Lake.


Polar Plunge for Special Olympics 2019 raises over 117,000
By Marianne Mueller
Presented by the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Geiko the 2018 Polar Plunge welcomed 426 participants spanning different age ranges. Each braved the elements to plunge into the frigid waters of Olson Lake at Rock Cut State Park on Saturday, March 2. This year saw record low outdoor and water temperatures creating one of the most challenging plunges in Rockford plunge history.
Ice had been chipped away leaving a hole ready for willing participants. Due to dangerously icy conditions on the beach no spectators were allowed into that area this year.
Many dressed in costumes. Rock River Ford had a team fully decked out in St. Patrick’s Day attire. There outfits were completed by Shamrock Shakes from McDonalds. This is the second year that the dealership has plunged. As always the Knights of Columbus showed support and dressed in colorful garb with an “Alice in Wonderland” theme. The Knights of Columbus has been plunging for seven years. “Everyone on our team always has so much fun,” teammates say. Sharks, fish, beach style clothing, and other clever costuming were seen all over the grounds of Olson Lake.
Many plunged in honor of a family member who is a Special Olympics Athlete and were “Freezing for a Reason. Special Olympics are the largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. All proceeds collected will benefit more than 23,000 traditional athletes and 20,000 Young Athletes of Special Olympics of IL. 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.
Prior to heading down to the beach warm hearted teams and individual participants gathered under a warm tent. Full party atmosphere music played in the background and the mood was uplifting.
Deb Kelly served as the event organizer and kept action moving at a perfect pace. Kelly introduced the Special Olympics athlete and Plunge Ambassador Jacob Hoak who spoke about his experience as a Special Olympics Athlete and a fellow plunger. The Ambassador has won over 50 medals in Special Olympics games and various trophies. Hoak’s energy proved to be contagious!
A meaningful opening ceremony featured Lisa Hodges of the Rockford Park District as she had sung a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem. South Beloit Police Chief and Law Enforcement Polar Plunge committee member Pat Hoey carried the torch down the path to the lake.
Loud cheering and applause was heard as team after team plunged into icy waters. An after plunge party offered pizza and beverages for all participants. Winners were announced in various categories by Kelly. She expressed special gratitude given to the Polar Plunge committee, Alpine Kiwanis, to Law Enforcement, volunteers, sponsors and all participants.
Joe Ghibellini was named the top individual fundraiser who raised a total of $2,505.
South Beloit School District was named the winner of the “Cool School” challenge earning the title of the top fundraising teams representing area schools.
Team Shrinkage; a team from the Dixon Police and Fire Department was named as the top Law Enforcement team. Together teammates collected $8,130. The team also was recognized as the top fundraising team with fewer than 10 people.
The team with over 10 people who brought in the most money was Stables of Dixon. The team raised $11,627.00.
Costume awards went to: Third place – South Beloit Unicorns, Second Place – Doctor Seuss, and First place to the Knights of Columbus – Alice in Wonderland.
Before all online donations are in the Rockford Polar Plunge raised $117,718. A goal of $130,000 had been set, and there is still time to donate to help organizers reach this goal.


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