Over $75,000 raised at 2023 Torch Run-Polar Plunge in 18th year


The DuPec football team got into the full spirit of the Polar Plunge at Olson Lake on Saturday, March 4 at the Rockford Region Law Enforcement Polar Plunge.

Bright spirits of 280 brave souls plunged into Olson Lake in Rock Cut State Park on Saturday, March 4, 2023, all in support of the Special Olympics and the 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 announced winners in various categories.

Besides hosting a number of annual fundraising events such as the Polar Plunge, each June the Law Enforcement Torch Run sees approximately 3,000 officers carrying the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in Normal, nearly 1,500 miles, running through thousands of Illinois communities via 23 different legs (routes) to its final destination.

The Olson Lake event started out under a warm tent where plungers gathered prior to the plunge for a Pre-Plunge party. The mobile Vintage Goose Cafe provided food and beverages.

Before the actual plunge, Special Olympics Ambassador Tori Humphrey inspired everyone through her positive message. Humphrey has been a Special Olympics Athlete for 14 years and was a fourth year plunger. 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 came from Rockford, Dixon, Roscoe, and elsewhere. Durand and Pecatonica were represented by the Du Pec Football team.

Setting a mood for fun, many wore creative and colorful costumes. Others opted for shorts and a top, or 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” of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s OfficeHarlem-Roscoe Fire Department took home third place.

The “Mother Cluckers” team of two ladies dressed up in chicken themed costumes. One was even joined by a live chicken before the plunge as part of the overall look. The Easter Seals team, “The Polar Bear Paras,” donned sports clothing.

The most money raised by law enforcement came in from Team Shrinkage of Dixon IL. Team Muzzy-Row raised the most money 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, were recognized for raising the most money by a team of 11 or more.

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

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.

Altogether the Rockford Region Polar Plunge raised $75,000.

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

All donations 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 was held on July 19-20 in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, with honorary chairperson Eunice Kennedy Shriver. 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!

Harlem Roscoe Fire Department took home third place honors in the costume contest.
The Polar Bear Paras plunged into cold waters of Olson Lake on Saturday, March 4 at the Rockford Region Law Enforcement Polar Plunge.
The Knights of Columbus earned first place costume honors with a fun Elvis theme.
The Durand and Pecatonica football teams, in shorts, prepared to take the plunge into Olson Lake.
A team from Schnucks had fun while plunging. Schnucks was one of many sponsors who came out in support of Special Olympics.
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