By Marianne Mueller

The Knights of Columbus earned first place costume honors while donning a fun Elvis theme.

Bright spirits of 280 brave souls plunged into Olson Lake in Rock Cut State Park on Saturday, March 4; all in support of the Special Olympics and thousands of athletes they serve.

This year’s event marked the 18th in Rockford of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge, and was lovingly organized by Katie Risely, Director of Development- Region A, Special Olympics. Risely was joined in this endeavor by Trent Geiger, Director of Sports for Special Olympics. Together they make up the Region A team.

Geiger kept the action rolling throughout the event as he informed plungers and guests of specific logistics, and announcements of winners in various categories.

The event started out under a warm tent where plungers gathered prior to the plunge for a Pre-Plunge party. Food and beverages were provided by the Vintage Goose Cafe.

Before the actual plunge, Special Olympics Ambassador Tori Humphrey who has been a Special Olympics Athlete for 14 years and was a fourth year plunger, inspired everyone through her positive message. She expressed thanks to all of the plungers and volunteers.

Humphrey asked that everyone repeat the words, “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.”

All law enforcement and fire departments received recognition for doing their part in Polar Plunge events.

Plungers who participated ranged from Rockford, Dixon, Roscoe, to Durand and Pecatonica who were represented by the Du Pec Football team.

Setting a mood for pure fun, many wore creative, and colorful costumes. Others opted for shorts and a top, team themed outfits, or swimwear.

First place costume winners were the Knights of Columbus who dressed to impress in Elvis themed garb. Second Place honors went to the “Copsicles,” and Harlem Roscoe Fire Department took home third place.

The “Mother Cluckers” team of two ladies dressed up in chicken themed costumes and one was even joined by a live chicken before the plunge as part of the overall look.

The most money raised by law enforcement came in from Team Shrinkage of Dixon Ill. Team Muzzy-Row had the most money raised by a team of 5-10 people.

They plunged in honor and memory of former Special Olympics participant, and Gold Medal winner, Brad Muzzarelli.

Radio personalities from 96.7 The Eagle; The Cosmos- Chillin’ With the Eagles team of 11 or more were recognized for raising the most money in their category.

Television news anchor Marta Berglund Channel 23-WIFR brought in the most money raised by an individual.

Donning sports clothing was the Easter Seals team; “The Polar Bear Paras.” Christa Magnuson honored the Rockford Peaches in her stunning costume. This is the 10th time that Magnuson has taken the plunge.

“It is always so much fun; hanging out together in the warming tent, and hyping each other up,” Magnuson said. “Waiting in line to jump into the water is so exciting and when it’s your turn the adrenaline just pushes you through.”

Magnuson adds, “You run into the water, and it is so cold that it takes your breath away. Running back out of the water into the changing tents is refreshing! Hearing everyone cheering you on is always a true motivation. This is for such a good cause and special needs kids needs is my job.”

Plungers who raised $100 or more received a commemorative 2023 Law Enforcement Polar Plunge hoodie.

All together the Rockford Region Polar Plunge raised a total of $75,000.

Special Olympics are the largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities.

All proceeds collected from Polar Plunges and other fundraising events will benefit more than 23,000 traditional athletes and 20,000 Young Athletes of Special Olympics of Illinois.

The first Special Olympics games began via Eunice Kennedy Shriver on July 19-20  in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. In the past 54 years these programs have witnessed great expansion.

Many have already expressed that they are looking forward to next year’s Polar Plunge!

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