The annual Chicago Polar Plunge, which has historically been the largest and most well-known plunge in the city of Chicago, will be a virtual event for the first time in its 21-year history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From March 1 to 7, new and former plungers will have the opportunity to plunge safely in a setting of their choosing—whether it be jumping in the snow or running through a sprinkler—while raising money for the 7,500 participants of the Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities (SOC/SCC) program.

An incredible array of prizes and incentives await those who register and fundraise. Prizes include these:

·A Peloton bike or exercise mirror to those who raise $25,000

·Two round-trip tickets on United Airlines to the first plunger to raise $2,100

·Choice of Polar Plunge towel, wireless speaker or water bottle to all who raise $300

·An official Chicago Polar Plunge T-shirt for all those who fundraise $200

·A Chicago Polar Plunge neck gaiter to the first 200 people who register

·A number of other prizes including Yeti coolers, televisions, Apple Ipads, and Airpods will also be awarded to top fundraisers.

A virtual melt-down party will take place on Sunday, March 7, where photos and video clips of participating teams and individuals will be showcased. Special Olympics Chicago athletes, various plunge teams, local dignitaries and celebrities will also make appearances. The winners of the annual costume contest and “most creative plunge” awards will also be announced.

Over the past 20 years, the Chicago Polar Plunge has not only become the “must attend” winter event in the city, but it has also received national and international attention by attracting celebrities including “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, actors Vince Vaughn and Dax Shepard, musician/artist Lady Gaga, the casts of “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Med,” and personalities from “The Today Show,” to dive in the icy waters of Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach.

Last year’s Chicago Polar Plunge was the most successful to date with over $2.2 million raised, and 4,800 plungers participating.

“Although the Chicago Polar Plunge will look different this year, it remains the most important fundraiser of the year for our organization, as it helps to fund 70 percent of our programs and enables us to continue to provide unique, safe activities and experiences for our 7,500 athletes,” said Carolyn Daley, president, SOC/SCC.

“This is the perfect year for those who have not participated in the plunge in the past and who may have found the idea of jumping into Lake Michigan during the cold March weather a little daunting. The Virtual Chicago Polar Plunge allows everyone to participate in whichever manner they choose. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our organization has continued to provide our athletes with virtual activities that have helped keep them engaged and active, while giving them the opportunity to see their friends and coaches they have come to think of as family.

“While we are hopeful that our in-person programming will resume in the coming months, now more than ever we need the support of Chicago to make our first-ever virtual Chicago Polar Plunge as successful as year’s past.”

Although Chicago Park District programs and Chicago Public Schools programs came to a halt in March 2020 due to the pandemic, SOC/SCC purchased 23 laptop computers for coaches to use to provide virtual programming and activities. In addition, the organization has delivered over 1,600 meals and activity packets to athletes, provided weekly bingo games and a number of other activities including cooking classes, trivia nights, online fitness classes with a local gym and more.

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.

Registration is now open for the virtual Chicago Polar Plunge.

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