Making a Tradition Out of Taking the Polar Plunge

Special Olympics Illinois is asking members of the Decatur community to join thousands across the state as they pledge to Be Bold and Get Cold this winter as participants of the annual Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge presented by GEICO.

And, while there are opportunities to participate in different ways, the general concept is simple – you choose to Plunge YOUR Way or Plunge OUR Way; register to support your local area; raise a minimum of $100; and take the Polar Plunge.

Choosing to Plunge YOUR Way puts the participant in the driver’s seat – and provides a little creative freedom. In 2021, this included snowball fights, sledding by onlookers with buckets of water, jumping in the snow, and so much more. 

Selecting to Plunge OUR Way means you will join your local community at an on-site, Special Olympics Illinois-hosted event. In Decatur, this warm-hearted group will take the Plunge on March 5 at Lake Decatur.

One long-time Polar Plunge participant you will see there is Dana Floyd, a Recreation Supervisor at the Decatur Park District.

“The Polar Plunge is one of my favorite parts of Special Olympics,” Dana recalled. “I started plunging more than 15 years ago. I try to count all my different color of hoodies to try and keep track.” When she first began participating, it was Dana and one athlete, and they carried on the tradition for a couple of years. Then, the involvement grew. 

“I decided a whole team with a theme would be so fun – and why not offer it to my coworkers at the Decatur Park District. I put the idea out there and there were a few takers,” added Floyd. “We now have a team of coworkers, family members, and whoever wants to join us.” 

The group of supporters is also typically joined but a few athletes. This year, their team has grown to 20 members.

Dana has dedicated much of her life to supporting those with special needs. Prior to joining the Decatur Park District 17 years ago, she spent 10 years working at a group home as well as 10 years assisting with a day programming workshop.

And it doesn’t stop there. Floyd has been a Special Olympics Illinois coach for 37 years. She spends her time teaching athletes new skills, sportsmanship, and, most of all, how to have fun and to walk away from competition feeling great about themselves, no matter the outcome.

“My wish has always been that everyone would attend one Special Olympics Illinois competition to see how hard the athletes work, try hard, and have fun,” shared Floyd. “You will walk away with a smile, I promise.”

Special Olympics Illinois offers year-round training and competition in 18 sports for more than 23,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities across the state of Illinois, including more than 1,400 athletes in Region I, including Decatur. All of the many competitions held can be found on the organization’s event calendar at www.soill.org/event-calendar.

“We become a family full of love and support for all the athletes,” Dana concluded. “The rewarding part of this, for me, is the interaction between my athletes and fellow Plungers. We encourage each other to embrace those freezing waters!” If you would like to participate in the 2022 Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Polar Plunge in Decatur, you can register at bit.ly/DecaturPlunge. For additional information, including other Polar Plunge locations, athlete stories, and more, visit plungeillinois.com.