Running through sand and taking a dip in the water sounds like a great reason to go on vacation and get away from the brutal winter Chicago is going through. However, those at Chicago Polar Plunge are once again signing up for the chance to take the chilly dive in the waters of Lake Michigan. This year, there will be a few famous faces joining them.
Regardless of political beliefs, it would be hard to say that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is afraid of a challenge. Last summer he challenged the kids in Chicago to take part in “Rahm’s Reader’s” summer program and read more than 2 million books. If they did so, Emanuel said he would take the dive for the Polar Plunge. The kids called his bluff, reading 2.1 million books, then the mayor upped the ante. When new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon took over the show last week he made the joke that Emanuel has a standing invitation to be a guest, or even host because Fallon jokingly said “I’m scared of that guy.”
Emanuel decided to take Fallon up on his offer and in exchange toughen him up. In a twitter exchange the mayor said he would appear on the show if Fallon joined him for the Polar Plunge. A small back and forth entailed, with the mayor’s office coming up with the hashtag #Jimmyplungewithus and finally Monday evening Fallon agreed.
“We really heard about it when everyone else heard about it,” Polar Plunge Executive Director Susan Nicholl said. “It was basically Jimmy doing an interview and the mayor responding to what Jimmy said. The mayor’s office was not in contact with any of Jimmy’s team with the exception of them tweeting back and forth.”
Getting the comedian and the mayor together has provided an exciting opportunity for the Polar Plunge. The event is the main fundraiser for Special Olympics Chicago throughout the year and despite the ridiculous weather Nicholl said they are on pace for 2,800 participants, more than 20% higher than last year.
“It’s our largest fundraiser, we don’t do a gala or black tie, this is our annual gala,” Nicholl said. “It benefits Special Olympics Chicago, the funds that we raise support the annual programs. It helps with transportation, event logistics, food and equipment, everything our athletes need.”
Fallon and Emanuel will be part of the first four to head into the water. Joining them will be Brian Bannon, Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library and Mike Kelly, Superintendent of the Chicago Park District . Nicholl expects the four to “go big” and fall completely back into the water. While Emanuel offered Fallon a wet suit, the former Saturday Night Live cast member said he’d be taking the plunge in his regular full suit and tie. The Polar Plunge is expected to draw some fans in attendance, Nicholl said they always have bleachers but have added a few for fans to watch the big names take the dive.
Fortunately for Fallon, Emanuel and every other plunger the event will have more than enough heated areas to help everyone warm up and get out of their wet clothes. Nicholl said everyone should have no problem staying warm, with the exception of when the get in the water, and how far they get in to the water is completely up to them. Those interested can still sign up for the Polar Plunge online through Friday and in person at the North Avenue Beach House on Friday and Saturday. The fun will all take place at that same beach house the next day on Sunday from 9am-2pm.
“There are no words after the winter that we’ve had, the third coldest on record, there are no words about the excitement and enthusiasm,” Nicholl said. “It’s one of the biggest Polar Plunges in the country. We are really proud.”