POLAR_PLUNGE04.jpgBILL GAITHER/The Register-Mail

Chip Timmons of the Galesburg Fire Department uses his legs to move ice from a section he cut with a chainsaw Saturday afternoon at Lake Storey. Timmons and others worked on the ice to break it up, but in the end were able to free up only a small portion of water for the 2007 Polar Plunge.

Participants fired up for an icy plunge

Fundraiser for Special Olympics has record year

Sunday, March 4, 2007

GALESBURG - As if taking a dip in Lake Storey in 25-degree weather wasn't enough, organizers of a Special Olympics fundraiser Saturday decided to spray the 109 participants down with a fire hose on the beach as well.

"You're not getting away with just getting your feet wet," said Cathy Betar, director of Western Illinois Special Olympics and an organizer of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge.

With thick layers of ice covering the lake for this year's event, a full-body plunge into the water wasn't an option.

Sporting a red diving suit, Capt. Chip Timmons of the Galesburg Fire Department carved a hole near the shore of the frozen lake with a chainsaw about 12:30 p.m.

A half hour later, the 109 participants who raised more than $19,000 for the cause took turns running down the beach and plunging into the knee-high icy water, then bracing themselves for a spray-down courtesy of the Galesburg Fire Department.

This was the coldest Polar Plunge by far in the five years it's been held at Lake Storey - and it was also the most successful. Last year, about 80 participants collected pledges, raising $13,000.

To take the plunge, participants need to raise at least $75. The funds raised benefit children and adults with various levels of disabilities in Knox, Henderson, Warren, Mercer, Fulton, Hancock, McDonough and Rock Island counties.

"All of the money stays local to support local athletes," said Betar.

POLAR_PLUNGE2.jpg
BILL GAITHER/The Register-Mail

Jarrett Corrow, a junior at Knox College and member of Beta Theta Pi, basks in a cold shower thanks to the Galesburg Fire Department on the beach of Lake Storey on Saturday afternoon. Ice from the lake could only be broken up so far, not offering the typical plunge. Participants could run into the water and splash, but the fire department ensured a good soaking on the way to and from the lake.

For the young men of Beta Theta Pi at Knox College, the Polar Plunge is an annual tradition.

Jarrett Corrow, a junior from Carlyle who serves as the fraternity's philanthropy chair, said he participated in a Polar Plunge in his hometown and encouraged his fraternity members to get involved. They have participated for the past three years.

"This is our biggest philanthropy event," said Corrow. "We look forward to it every year."

The fraternity raised $3,070 this year by soliciting donations from friends, family members and local businesses, winning the award for most money raised by a team.

"That says a lot about a group of college kids," said Betar.

The 10 pledges and four active members stripped down to their swim trunks and wrote the names of sponsors on their backs before taking their turns in the icy water and under the hose.

"I still can't feel my toes," said Corrow after the plunge, while participants warmed up with a free meal in the Lake Storey Pavilion.

Other plungers included members of Pi Beta Phi sorority at Knox College, Capt. Lindsey May of the Galesburg Police Department, Knox County Coroner Mark Thomas and numerous law enforcement personnel.

Sam Burdick, co-owner of Corner Connection in downtown Galesburg, rallied employees and customers of the bar to participate in the event for the fourth year in a row. He said he braves the cold because he has a personal connection to the cause.

"I had a younger brother who was in Special Olympics. It helped him tremendously and I want to help others have the same chance," Burdick said.

Galesburg Cottage Hospital CEO Ken Hutchenrider challenged the hospital staff to raise $3,000 for the event. They raised $3,050, so Hutchenrider and two hospital employees took the plunge, wearing surgical scrubs and masks.

Hutchenrider sat down in the knee-high water to make sure he was drenched enough to please the hospital staff and said he plans to participate again next year.

"It's a great cause," Hutchenrider said. "When you see the faces of the people who get to be the beneficiaries, it's worth it."

The Cottage Hospital team won an award for best costume. Jane Gillam, manager of ShopKo in Monmouth, won a Golden Plunger award for the most money raised by an individual, at $1,159.

The total amount raised was $19,282, just shy of the $20,000 goal. Betar said donations still are being accepted and she has a long-term goal of generating a minimum of $25,000 each year to help local athletes participate in Special Olympics, which receives no state or federal funding and relies solely on donations.

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On the Net:

Special Olympics Illinois: www.soill.org

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