It’s hard to believe, but Sunday, March 5, 2023 will represent my last official plunge as CEO and President of Special Olympics Illinois. As many now know, I will be retiring at the end of 2023.

Looking back, my very first foray into the Polar Plunge was the winter of 2000, at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet. I took the icy dip with my sister and her dog, Dara. I barely beat Dara the Dog in earning pledges/donations. Soon after, people were no longer allowed to take the Plunge with their pets.

Throughout the next 24 years, we have seen more than $27 million raised by around 87,000 plungers. And, I, myself, have entered that icy cold water approximately 175 times.

a man wearing a hat and jacket

This included seven Super Plunges (where you take the Plunge each hour for 24 hours). It also included plunging in dumpsters, dunk tanks, Lake Michigan, and more. I have visited 19 different locations from Rockford to Carbondale, reaching many of our Plunge locations across the state.

The courage and craziness I have witnessed during this time reminds me why we do this. I believe that is the easiest part to explain. It is because of the courage and bravery of the athletes.

Special Olympics Illinois athletes wake up every day with obstacles ahead of them and tackle the day, as well as their life challenges, with tremendous attitude, joy, and courage.

I have witnessed the incredible dedication and commitment that our Law Enforcement Torch Run officers provide to the athletes and to this organization throughout the state of Illinois.

The fun and fellowship of our Polar Plunges continues to grow each year. From students and faculty, to members of organizations or corporations, to families and friends, and so many more, our participants represent all walks of life.

They have made this crazy idea of raising money to get in cold water something to check off of your bucket list. The stories and commitment to the Special Olympics Illinois mission are so inspirational to me and to our staff that work to put on these Polar Plunges. And they inspire others to join in on the fun.

a couple of men in sports uniforms

I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

This year, for my final Polar Plunge as a staff member, I am pleased to be joined by many of my friends, including fellow board members as well as Special Olympics Illinois athlete leaders Daniel Smrokowski, Zinyra Ross, Caleb Busick and Colleen Costello. We will be taking part at the Crystal Lake Plunge on Sunday, March 5, beginning at noon.

I invite you to come and join us! Or, if you would prefer to support our efforts, I invite you to do that as well. We have a goal to raise $2 million statewide in 2023.

If you want to BE COOL and take the Plunge yourself or support other Polar Plungers, visit plungeillinois.com.

Thank you! I truly appreciate all you do to support Special Olympics Illinois.



Dave Breen