The first virtual Chicago Polar Plunge has raised more than $990,000, making it one of the most successful virtual events in the state of Illinois so far this year.

Donations to the 21st annual Chicago Polar Plunge, which benefits the Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities program, will be accepted through the end of March.

While the Chicago Polar Plunge looked different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it did not stop the fun and enthusiasm for the event throughout the city. Across Chicago, teams and individuals jumped into the snow, made snow angels, plunged into dunk tanks, set up sprinklers and dove into pools for the 7,500 athletes of the Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s program.

Nearly 400 videos were loaded up on the Chicago Polar Plunge website, sharing how teams and participants participated in this year’s event. Videos were shared of plungers not only from the Chicago area, but also as far as Singapore and Costa Rica.

High schools and elementary schools also ramped up their involvement by hosting dress down days and mini polar plunges.

“While the Chicago Polar Plunge looked much different this year, we were amazed by how creative our participants were in getting involved and raising money for our athletes,” said Carolyn Daley, president of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities.

“It was incredible to see how not only our veteran teams, but also new plungers, signed up and went above and beyond to help support the Special Olympics Chicago program. This year’s event also allowed those people who may find the idea of jumping into Lake Michigan in March a little daunting, the opportunity to participate in any way they choose.

“It truly was the year when everyone who chose to was included and participated. We thank all of Chicago for supporting our efforts this year and allowing us to continue to solely fund the Chicago Special Olympics programs.”

The Chicago Polar Plunge helps to provide nearly 60 percent of the funding needed for year-round events and activities for nearly 8,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities in Chicago. Unlike other polar plunges, every single dollar raised from the Chicago Polar Plunge stays in the city to provide transportation, medals, uniforms, sports equipment, cooking classes, meal deliveries and more for the organization’s athletes.

In typical times, athletes compete and train in 22 sports throughout the year in over 100 Chicago Public Schools throughout the city and in 23 parks through the Chicago Park District. The Special Olympics Chicago programs that are implemented at the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park District are modeled across the country. Support is also provided for arts programming, special events, field trips and an athlete-produced cable access television show.

For more information or to donate, visit chicagopolarplunge.org.