'Warm hearts': Thousands take the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan to support Special Olympics Chicago

Nearly 4,000 people packed North Avenue Beach Sunday morning, a crowd you'd normally see in summer.

Despite a water temperature of just 33 degrees and a bitterly cold wind blowing off the lake, there was nothing but warmth from the crowd taking part in the 22nd Annual Chicago Polar Plunge.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was among a dozen city leaders who took the first dip, emerging from the water a few minutes later striking a celebratory pose.


The Polar Plunge is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Special Olympics Chicago, raising over $1.6 million on Sunday.

"All the money our organization raises stays right here in the city of Chicago to provide activities and events for people with intellectual disabilities," said Carolyn Daley from the Chicago Special Olympics: 

Chicago police and fire marine units stood by to make sure no one went too far into the water as plungers took turns, some wearing costumes, others wearing barely anything at all.

The money raised today will fund programs at 150 public schools and 23 park districts in the Chicago area.

"Warm hearts for the athletes, for the families and the life-changing experiences that Special Olympics has been giving to the residents of the city for decades," Lightfoot said.