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In the crisp February air, amidst the backdrop of Northern Illinois University's football field, the inaugural Huskie Stadium Polar Plunge at NIU unfolded. While many shivered at the mere thought of jumping into icy waters, for participants, organizers, and supporters ofSpecial Olympics Illinois, it was a heartwarming experience.

“It’s nice to host another Special Olympics Illinois event here,” said Jen Parker, EventCoordinator at Northern Illinois University. Parker highlighted the joy of hosting such a meaningful event on campus. “It looks like it’s been a pretty good turnout so far, so hopefully when we host it again next year, it will be even bigger.”

"I thought this campus and community would be a great location to host a plunge," shared Katie Risley, Director – Development, Special Olympics Illinois Region A. “Working with the NIU staff and receiving support from the community of DeKalb allowed the event to come to fruition. I see this event doubling in size next year and

Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority posing for photo at Huskie Stadium Plunge.

I am excited for what is to come in the future,” she continued, the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority is a longtime supporter of the Special Olympics Illinois mission. For several years they volunteered at various events within Region A, which serves the local area. Naturally, when Risley approached them and asked for their support with this new event, they jumped at the opportunity.

For Shannon Burke, Philanthropy Chair, Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Polar Plunge was another chance to make a difference and advance the Special Olympics Illinois mission. "We've been volunteering and raising money for Special Olympics Illinois for a really long time now, so it's really important to all of our girls," Burke explained. “I think next year I'd want to try to get some more girls involved. I know this year was kind of a new thing, so I think once everyone sees the event, we can get everyone involved and try to get some more girls out and raise some more money.”

As participants braved the frigid waters with cheers and laughter, it was evident that the Polar Plunge was more than just a daring dip, each plunge represented a pledge to support athletes with intellectual disabilities, providing them with opportunities for growth, inclusion, and achievement.

To learn more about how to get involved in the Polar Plunge nearest you, visit plungeillinois.com. You can learn more about Special Olympics Illinois at soill.org.