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Athlete Kim Stivers, 37, knows what cool is.

This year will be her sixteenth year taking the Polar Plunge in Effingham for Special Olympics Illinois. “I’ve gotten used to the cold,” Kim said.

a group of people in the water

Kim has been competing as a Special Olympics Illinois athlete for twenty years. She regularly competes in bocce, bowling, as well as track and field. Kim said she first heard about the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Illinois on the radio. She first took the Plunge solo, but for the past ten years has been the team captain of her fundraising team.

Kim said for her, a simple ask works best in generating donations. “I tell them its for a great cause,” Kim said, “and that everything raised goes to the athletes.” Kim also got permission to hang flyers for her Polar Plunge team in her company’s breakroom and tries to post on social media when she can.

Being an athlete for Special Olympics Illinois for 20 years has given Kim a new perspective. She has seen a lot of growth, from becoming more confident, to the Polar Plunge’s expansion, and even within Special Olympics Illinois itself.

a man and woman standing next to a person in a garment

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” Kim said. “Like with strategic planning, there’s a lot more of an athlete perspective and inclusion of athletes. We are taking more leadership roles in the organization. I’ve seen a lot more of that.”

This year, Kim is the Effingham Polar Plunge’s co-ambassador. In years past, she’s chosen to wear some very cool costume themes, ranging from minions to Mardi Gras. Kim doesn’t know if she’ll wear a costume this year but said she’s most excited to see and cheer on her friends.

To those still unsure about taking the Polar Plunge, Kim offered this advice. “Once they take it, they’ll do it every year.”

Click here to learn more about the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Illinois, commit to a Polar Plunge near you, or to donate.