The Special Olympics Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge returns in-person this year with events across Illinois. Participants are encouraged to “Plunge Our Way” at events or “Plunge Your Way” at home.

While there are many ways to fundraise and get involved, Polar Plunge participants are encouraged to raise a minimum of $100 in donations from their communities in exchange for getting soaked. This year, the Polar Plunge expects to raise nearly $2,000,000 to provide health and wellness training and leadership resources for more than 23,000 athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

Veteran athlete of Special Olympics Illinois, Jacob Brettman, plans to take the plunge for the first time this year in Braidwood, Illinois dressed as Prince Charming. His family, friends and “noble steed” canine companion, Pauli, will accompany him in fairy-tale-themed costumes.

Like Prince Charming, Jacob approaches every challenge with courage. His can-do attitude epitomizes the Special Olympics Athletes’ Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Jacob suffered an injury when he was four years old, and his mother, Nancy Brettman, didn’t know how to get him involved in extracurriculars. A friend recommended getting involved in Special Olympics Illinois, and the organization welcomed Jacob and Nancy with open arms. Jacob participated in his first event when he was nine, and he has continued to compete for the last 26 years.

Nancy is grateful to be part of such a welcoming and inclusive community: “Anybody can come,” she says. “We’re all Special Olympics.”

Jacob has lifelong memories from Special Olympics Illinois, including volunteering at the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Chicago and getting coached in basketball by his brother, Tony. One of his favorite Special Olympics Illinois moments was participating in a snowshoeing competition. The competition was challenging, but Nancy and spectators cheered him on as he crossed the finish line. “He didn’t give up,” Nancy says, “and that’s all that counts.”

Special Olympics Illinois has pushed boundaries for Jacob in ways Nancy didn’t know were possible. While participating in floor hockey, Jacob took steps without his walker for the first time

– much to his mother’s surprise. The organization also connected Nancy and Jacob with families who understand special needs, unlocking a plethora of resources for them. “You don’t have to explain anything,” says Nancy. “It’s about the comradery… and being with the people.”

When Jacob isn’t training for the Special Olympics, he can be found busting a move in his favorite dance class at the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Titans program or volunteering at Navarro Farm in Frankfort, Illinois.

If you’d like to get involved in the Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunge, Nancy recommends joining your region’s event and participating with family and friends who will hold you accountable. Jacob’s advice is even clearer — he encourages anyone who is considering the Polar Plunge to “just do it.”

Additional information can be found on the Special Olympics Illinois Polar Plunge website at www.plungeillinois.com. To help Jacob reach his fundraising goal, go to “Support a Plunger” and search for Jacob (never quit) Brettman.