The Galesburg community and bordering communities, among them Monmouth and Moline, braved the cold waters of Lake Storey for the Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunge on March 1.
The plunge took place in three-degree water temperatures, and consisted of a series of 27 groups who took turns plunging into the lake.
With 365 registered plungers, $53,000 was raised and will go to Special Olympic Illinois athletes, who are athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities.
Galesburg was the 10th city to participate in the Polar Plunge, which has been happening across the state since February. Over 20 cities are signed up to participate in the fundraiser, and there will be more plunges in seven different cities on March 7.
Knox College was represented at the event by more than 50 students who either signed up on their own or through student groups such as Alpha Sigma Alpha, Beta Theta Pi, MEChA or Best Buddies. Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $75, but many participants pushed themselves to raise more funds.
Sophomore Marilyn Barnes raised a total of $130. She participated in the plunge with M.E.Ch.A., which came up with over $500 in combined funds.
Barnes said the Polar Plunge “was definitely a great cause,” and she was proud to have gone beyond the $75 requirement.
She asked friends on Facebok for donations and also asked for money from her family members to meet the requirement.
“I asked for $10 from each of my family members, and there’s seven of them, so I would just put five to make the minimum,” Barnes said.
The weather Sunday, March 1 was not exactly ideal for plunging, standing at 36 degrees with fresh snowfall. Junior plunger Clara Conover was well aware of this, having checked the forecast on Saturday.
“I’m a little scared,” she said before the plunge. “But it’s dip in, dip out and you’re good.”
Her boyfriend, junior Dustin Loch, attended the plunge and supported her by waiting with a ready towel, dry clothes and a couple sets of mittens for afterwards.
The event itself had a range of activities, including a snowman-building contest and a costume contest in the afternoon, as well as a dinner for the plungers. Best Buddies from Knox had a table to campaign against the usage of “the R-word” and a petition on which vows against its usage could be recorded.
Area Manager Jennifer Davis explained that the reason people are drawn to the fundraiser is primarily because it is a “great cause” and “unique.”
“Lots of people will be crossing this one off their bucket lists today,” Davis said.