Reader Jeff Nimon of Hobart recalled a column I wrote four years ago in January 2010 about a chilly event called "The Polar Bear Plunge."
His recollection, and perhaps our sudden January cold snap of frigid temps, prompted him to call with the following query: "Hello Phil, I would like to see a Polar Bear Plunge, but I'm wondering if I've already missed it? I think this would be something quite interesting to see, having read about it in one of your previous writings. Would you please print something again in your column with details. Thank you! Jeff Nimon"
Even though there have already been a couple of these brave-the-cold-lake splashes that happened last week to welcome the arrival of 2014, no need to worry, because more are still to come, right up until March!
For readers who are not familiar with this daredevil dip braving sub-zero cold, these organized mass gatherings invite thrill-seekers of a wide age range (but at least consenting adult age) to gather along a targeted beach on the shores of Lake Michigan and share a mass charge in the water. Wearing the skimpiest of bathing attire or sometimes even silly costumes, onlookers also gather to cheer on these characters for their brief, splash and thrash dip in the arctic water.
The event I witnessed and wrote about in February 2010 was hosted by the Chicago Lakeview Polar Bear Club and featured Weather Channel TV personality Mike Bettes participating, which is who I shadowed and shivered with for my column coverage.
This year's dip planned by the same group is at 11 a.m. Jan. 25, and ranks as the 13th annual LPBC Polar Plunge, with proceeds raised benefiting two families in need because of medical bills, along with corporate sponsorship to match funds. This event offers reward levels, such as a free LPBC T-shirt for every $100 raised and free drinks at the "after-party." This event encourages participants to wear Speedo swimsuits and it is held in the shadow of the John Hancock Building on the Oak Street Beach in Chicago. Visit lakeviewpolarbearclub.com for details.
Another option is to join the 2,000 spirited thrill-chasers at the 14th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge sponsored by and benefiting Chicago Special Olympics. It is on Sunday, March 2 at North Avenue Beach in Chicago. Whether you go knee high, waist high, take the full Plunge or watch in the cheer section, all are welcome to participate. This unique and memorable event benefits the programs enjoyed throughout the year by the nearly 5,000 athletes of Special Olympics Chicago. The organizers provide a free round trip bus for groups of 20 or more so registering a team is also a great idea. All participants receive a free T-shirt and, more importantly, a warm towel when exiting the water! Visit sochicago.org or call (312) 527-3743 for details.