When you ask Barry Daniels and Shawn Keith about Deputy Sheriff Nicholas “Nick” Weist, both their faces light up.

“Nick never knew a stranger,” Barry said.

“Our county is decently small,” Shawn added. “Everyone knows Nick.”

“He started in 2018,” Shawn said. “He was all over law enforcement things. A 911 dispatcher. Volunteer fire fighter. Secretary of State police officer.”

“Nick wanted to be a police officer since he was this big,” Barry held his palm to his waist. “It was in his blood.”

Deputy Sheriff Weist’s End of Watch was April 29, 2022. He was killed in the line of duty.

Both Barry and Shawn served with Nick during his time at the Knox County Sherriff’s Office. Each wanted to commemorate the first anniversary of Nick’s passing. Barry said he was scrolling through social media when an advertisement for the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge came up. “It seemed perfect,” Barry said.

Shawn shook his head and smiled. “I was like, ‘You really want to jump in cold water?’ But immediately, I knew it was the right way to honor Nick. He was all over everything and anything Special Olympics.”

Their Polar Plunge team started out small. About four or five people, according to Barry. “Now,” Barry smiled, again, “there are 20 to 25 folks on our team.” Nick’s wife has ordered t-shirts for them all. Even their sheriff has signed on

to take the Plunge. “We didn’t think it would get this big.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Nick would have been on the team,” Shawn said.

This is both Barry and Shawn’s first time taking the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Illinois. Barry insisted this would be a recurring tribute for Nick. “This may be our first Polar Plunge, but it won’t be our last.”

And when they found out their Special Olympics Illinois region’s Polar Plunge was at Lake Storey, it seemed to be more than serendipity.

“We spent a lot of time out on Lake Storey,” Shawn said. Nick had a boat he often took out onto the lake. They fished and rode bikes along the lake’s path. “He’s definitely at that lake.”

To learn more about the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge, commit to a Polar Plunge near you, or donate, please visit PlungeIllinois.com