MT. VERNON — The 14th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge into Rend Lake will take place at noon March 1 at South Sandusky Beach in Benton.
Organizers have set a goal of $62,000 for this year’s Plunge. The event raises money for Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities in the Southern Illinois region.
Rhonda Knight, director of the Special Olympics Illinois for Area 14, described the Polar Plunge as her organization’s “major fundraiser of the year.”
Among other things, funding from the event helps pay for facility costs, athlete awards, T-shirts for volunteers, food and administration expenses.
“It pretty much pays for half of my program expenses for the year,” Knight said. “The Polar Plunge is huge for us. Without it, we would struggle to provide what we provide.”
Participants in the Plunge will jump into the cold waters of Rend Lake to raise money for the Special Olympics.
To be a Plunger, you must collect a minimum of $75 in donations. Even so, many participants raise much more than this, with some collecting up to $3,000, Knight said.
Last year’s event had 301 Plungers who raised more than $59,000. So far, 320 people have signed up for this year’s Plunge.
Knight said the Polar Plunge has grown over the years. For its first year at Rend Lake, the Plunge drew 42 participants and raised $9,000.
“It continues to attract attention as more and more people hear about it,” Knight said.
Check-in for the March 1 event takes place at 10 a.m. Following the Plunge, lunch will be served at the Benton Eagles, 201 E. Washington St.
Lunch is free for Plungers and $6 for the general public. Children 6 and under can eat lunch for $3.
Knight said the Plunge tends to attract a large number of spectators, sometimes up to 250 people.
“It’s just a fun day. It’s a family event,” Knight said. “All ages can enjoy it.”
Plungers are asked to come in costume and to form teams.
Team members’ individual fundraising totals will be merged to form a combined team total, states a Special Olympics Illinois news release.
The teams are then placed into statewide divisions based on their size and can receive prizes for raising the most money.
Each participant gets an official Polar Plunge sweatshirt.
Also, Plungers who raise $500 will be entered into the statewide competition to possibly win a grand prize.
One of the grand prizes this year is a four-night trip to Cancun, Mexico.
To register for the Plunge, visit www.plungeillinois.com or call Knight at 383-4400. Plungers can also register the morning of the event.