For Kathleen Williams and her daughter, Emmerson Hjort, the Polar Plunge in Mahomet is all about the costumes.
“We absolutely LOVE the costume part,” said Kathleen. “We take costumes very seriously and are proud owners of several Golden Plunger awards and a Silver!” Their team’s costumes have included princess formals, court jesters, cavemen, villains and a Siberian boxing team.
Kathleen and Emmerson became involved in the Polar Plunge six years ago as “toe dippers” for the first two years. “I wasn’t sure I could handle it,” said Kathleen, who had the utmost respect for the “all-in” plungers.
Emmerson, 13, participates in Special Olympics through Mahomet-Seymour Special Olympics. She competes in athletics, bocce, gymnastics, softball, golf and snowshoeing.
“Emmerson has lots of amazing supporters who have seen how much fun we have and have joined us to support her and this fantastic organization. The team grows every year with either plungers, donors or the sideline cheerleaders who support us that way.” Their team raised $2,800 in 2015.
“By far, my favorite part (of the Plunge) is working with Emmerson to come up with a really fun theme and then the costume planning with team members,” said Kathleen. “Emmerson’s favorite part is the excitement of seeing the team come together for our pre-Plunge team photo.”
Kathleen finds enjoyment in the entire process of the Polar Plunge – “from theme choice, to costumes, to creation, to the laughs with teammates during costume making, and ultimately to the anxiety and adrenalin right before the Plunge. It all leads to a roomful of great friends celebrating the challenge being met, that and finding out just how much was contributed to Special Olympics in our Area.”
Kathleen urges anyone interested in the Polar Plunge to “do it, even if only once! It’s well worth pursuing for your bucket list.”
She does have some practical advice for first-timers: “Make sure you have your dry clothes VERY close. I made the mistake of not planning the logistics of that once. It took a very long time to warm up that year.”
As a parent of a Special Olympics athlete, Kathleen knows first-hand the benefits the program brings to people with intellectual disabilities. “Some of my most beautiful and priceless memories are related to Special Olympics. Get involved, volunteer, become a sidelines cheerleader for the athletes. Whatever you choose to do, I guarantee your heart can never be the same,” she said.
The team will be plunging again this year at noon Saturday, Feb. 27, at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet.
If you are interested in joining the Kathleen and Emmerson at the Mahomet Plunge or want to plunge at any of Illinois’ 21 locations, visit PlungeIllinois.com.