Hundreds of “plungers” braved the chilly waters of Loon Lake at Silver Springs State Park near Plano on Sunday morning to participate in the Kendall County Special Olympics’ annual Polar Plunge fundraiser.
Groups from around the Kendall County area raised more than $80,000 for the event, with all proceeds going to support more than 40,000 traditional and young athletes who will compete in this year’s Special Olympics in Seattle, Washington.
The Polar Plunge was started 19 years ago in Lake Bluff, Illinois, near Lake Michigan as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Since then, the Polar Plunge has spread across the country, with participants raising more than $18.4 million since the event’s inception.
This year, 271 plungers registered, with 40 teams participating. Out of the 40 teams, 15 teams were law enforcement groups.
A preliminary look at the funds raised showed $84,600 in donations, but as donations can be accepted through March 26, that number is expected to grow.
Plano resident Cary Wagner has participated in the Polar Plunge for 11 years, after her best friend encouraged her to participate. “The first year I did it, I was hooked, I was like, ‘I cannot wait to do it again,’” Wagner said.
Wagner has a nephew who is autistic, and called the Special Olympics “amazing.”
“This is near and dear to my heart,” she said.
For the first few years that she participated in the plunge, she was able to do it on her own, but after she lost part of her leg in a motorcycle accident, members of the Little Rock-Fox Fire Protection District have carried Wagner into the water and dunked her in. “They’re like family,” she said, praising the firefighters.
“As soon as we’re done, I cannot wait to do it again – I cannot wait for the next year,” Wagner said.