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Polar Plunge Raises Thousands for Special Olympics Illinois

In a heartwarming display of courage and community support, volunteers from across Southern Illinois took the plunge into icy waters to raise funds for Special Olympics Illinois at SIU’s Touch of Nature Education Center. The event, organized by Special Olympics Illinois, drew participants who braved the cold waters to support life-changing programs for athletes with special needs.


Racing towards the frigid waters (Top). Touchdown (Bottom) at Touch of Nature, IL., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
Rajvee Subramanian

Among the courageous participants was Kim Babington, Vice President of Community Outreach at Southern Illinois University Credit Union, who not only received the Special Olympics Spirit Award for her dedicated service but also took her first plunge into the frigid waters to demonstrate her unwavering support for the cause. Kim has been a staunch advocate for Special Olympics Illinois, actively participating in fundraising activities and championing the organization’s mission for several years.

Kim Babington showing off her Special Olympics Spirit Award (Top). Brian Croft – Director of Touch of Nature impressed with Kim’s debut polar plunge (Bottom) at Touch of Nature, IL., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
Photo Courtesy (Special Olympics Illinois)

Adding a dash of creativity to the event was Arthur Fager, Branch Manager of SIUCU at Energy, who snagged the coveted Best Costume Award for his imaginative attire. Despite this being his sixth plunge, Arthur emphasized the importance of the event and its impact on the community, stating, “It was a fun event to be a part of and has a good purpose.”

Arthur Fager – Branch Manager of SIUCU interviewed by local television journalist Madison at Touch of Nature, IL., Friday, Feb. 24, 2024.
Rajvee Subramanian

Despite the chilly temperatures, participants were undeterred as they plunged into the water, with the mercury hovering in the 40s. The event not only showcased the community’s commitment to supporting special athletes but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among participants.

Ready to take a dip (Top) Time for group hug. SIUCU staff celebrating their polar plunge (Bottom) at Touch of Nature, IL., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 Leah Myers
(Photo Courtesy – Special Olympics Illinois)

One of the youngest plungers, a three-year-old, stole hearts as he took the plunge alongside his great-grandmother, demonstrating that age is no barrier when it comes to showing support for a worthy cause.

A cute 3 year old plunger (Top).  Group of plungers at Touch of Nature, IL., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 Leah Myers

The Polar Plunge event proved to be a resounding success, raising approximately $35,500. Brittany Fuqua, Special Olympics Illinois
Region K Director, expressed her excitement over the funds raised, highlighting their crucial role in providing special athletes with opportunities to showcase their talents on a global stage. The proceeds will enable athletes from the region to participate in games worldwide and foster connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
The event not only served as a fundraiser but also as a celebration of inclusivity, resilience, and the power of community support. As participants emerged from the icy waters, their smiles and sense of accomplishment spoke volumes about the impact of their actions in empowering special athletes and promoting a more inclusive society.

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