Various locations hosted this year's Polar Plunge in the aim to raise funds for Special Olympics athletes. The annual event occurs in various states in the country with hundreds of participants in each state joining to donate and support their athletes.

Between January and February, participants plunge into icy water in various locations across the United States.

Polar Plunge, an annual event where people dive into icy waters during the winter season, showcases camaraderie among residents who gives out their support to their participants in the Special Olympics. States like Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Minnesota and many others joined the nationwide event.

In Santa Barbara, California, residents participated in the location's 2nd annual Polar Plunge on Feb. 27 at Leadbetter Beach. Various residents from across professions and establishments joined the activity and plunged into waters with temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We've been involved with the Special Olympics for a long time. We are a passionate office, an office that is athletic. Anytime anyone can have that experience, let alone someone who has other abilities, we are right behind them," said District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

At the same time, residents of Illinois participated in their own Polar Plunge at Lake of the Woods Mahomet. About 300 people participated in the event with warmer waters compared to previous plunges.

"All of the individuals raise funds for Freezin' for a Reason to provide sports training and competition opportunities for our athletes," said Sandy Nash, senior director of development for the Special Olympics.

Residents in Wisconsin and Chicago took the plunge in what they call, "warmer waters." Participants plunged into the waters of Fox Lake in Chicago with a temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature in the area was 50 degrees warmer than it was in 2015.

In Wisconsin, there are about 600 plunge participants who took the challenge at Half Moon Lake to raise funds for about 10,000 athletes across the state. The mid-30s temperature was also relatively warmer compared to previous plunges.

"You have to do something crazy in life sometimes. I try to do some pretty crazy things as much as I can," Torien Leath, an Eau Claire resident said.

"If they did bungee jumping next year, I'd be like, let's do this!" he added.

One participant has her heart out for the event because she has a 13-year-old son with special needs who joins the Special Olympics.

"If we didn't have Special Olympics in our life, it would be terrible. My son looks forward to his activities after school twice a week, and it's like one of the highlights of his life," Deb Sommer, who has joined four Polar Plunges, said.

Photo: Royal Broil | Flickr

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