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Everybody into the pool, for 24 straight hours, to benefit Special Olympics Illinois

The SouthtownStar - 2/27/2021

Feb. 27—In a room Tinley Park police typically use for training, men lounge in swim trunks and some fiddle with their phones while the show "American Ninja Warrior" blasts from two large wall-mounted televisions.

"Five minutes," Detective Sgt. Bill Devine says.

The group heads out to a swimming pool set up in the police station parking lot and quickly climb in, submerge themselves in water just a couple of degrees above freezing, then climb out.

They will repeat this every hour for 24 hours, with the goal of raising money for Special Olympics Illinois.

The annual Polar Plunge typically takes place in Lake Michigan, with police officers from throughout the state taking part in the fundraising effort. It came off last year, in February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic made such gatherings impractical.

Super Plungers committed to take a dip once an hour for 24 hours straight, and that's what Devine, who's been with the Tinley Park department for 26 years, and eight other members of the force were doing. Their first dip was at 9 a.m. Friday and they were to finish at 8 a.m. Saturday.

They had set a goal of raising $20,000 this year and by Friday afternoon were already nearing $26,000. Donations can be made at and searching on the specific site for Tinley Park police.

In conjunction with Dunkin' Donuts, the annual Cop on a Rooftop also had to take a break last summer because of the pandemic. In 2019, the event raised nearly $1 million for Special Olympics Illinois.

Devine and the other plungers spent time between dips in the briefing room, with meals brought in although there was a table of snacks handy.

At a table with a digital timer counting down to the next plunge, Sgt. Darren Persha kept track of how many dips were and monitored donations.

Persha said years ago he did jump into Lake Michigan for one of the annual plunges, but mostly helps each year with odds and ends.

Devine said that muscle cramping is one drawback from the repetitive plunging, but "the hardest part is, over time, you won't get warm."

Devine said he doesn't sleep at all, and that some of the guys, as the day progresses, ware able to catch a couple of minutes of sleep. He said that for plungers "at some point, you hit a wall."

"For me, my drive is definitely my son," he said.

Devine's 14-year-old son, C.J., had Down syndrome and has been taking part in Special Olympics for nearly his entire life, with basketball, bowling and track and field events his favorites.

Plungers from around the Chicago area and state typically gather annually at Lake Michigan, and huddle in tents on the shore.

"This is definitely 5-star," Devine noted of this year's accommodations.

With the setup this year with the pool, Devine said he was concerned that might lead to a drop in donations.

"The Lake Michigan part has a mystique to it, so to say," he said.


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