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Palos Park police head to Manteno for Polar Plunge 

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By Steve Metsch and Bob Bong 

Area police officers cannot wait to go swimming on Saturday.

No, not in the warm comfort of a YMCA swimming pool or a local hotel.

This will happen outside. On March 5. In Northern Illinois.

It’s not exactly swimming weather, which is why it’s called the Polar Plunge.

The plunge is a fundraiser for the Illinois Special Olympics.

The men in blue will be diving into the cool water at the Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. Last year’s plunge was done virtually due to the pandemic.

Bridgeview Police Officer Josh Brander and Palos Park Officer Ryan Franczak are among the local law enforcement types who will take the plunge on Saturday.

Franczak is running the program in Palos Park and said the annual icy dip to benefit the Special Olympics of Illinois draws thousands each year to raise money for state and local Special Olympics programs.  It also generates awareness of the power of Special Olympics, which allows children and adults with intellectual disabilities to live active lives through inclusion, socialization, exercise and friendly competition.

“We all work together because of our love for the Special Olympians and we are going to continue that, it is our honor to be part of Special Olympic Illinois,” he said.

For Brander, it’s his seventh year. He will soon celebrate his eighth year with the police department.

“We’re doing it for the Illinois Torch Run,” he said. “The Polar Plunge is an event the Special Olympics throws. It’s one of the many that the law enforcement torch run is part of.”

The polar plungers are asking friend for donations.

“Last year, we raised just over $26,000 with all the events,” Brander said. “I believe that was the highest we achieved so far. This year, we’re trying to blow it out of the water.”

Brander is co-captain of the Bridgeview team with Tom Novak. Novak is not a police officer, but had been a tow truck driver for the company used by the Bridgeview Police Department.

Asked about the potential chill that awaits, Brander said: “I’m hoping they have to cut holes in the ice.”

“That’s the whole idea. The hashtag we go with is ‘Be bold, get cold.’ It’s exiting. Jumping in that water is exhilarating,” Brander said. “When you get out, you feel fantastic.”

What also makes him feel good is the reason.

“When you’re there and you see these (Special Olympics) athletes and you know what the money is going for, it’s not about the cold. It’s just a lot of fun.”

He’s always sure to submerge completely in the water during his “quick little dip.”

In past years, they’ve seen temperatures ranging from 5 to 50 degrees. “We’ll have some tents, some heaters, cater some food and have a big group there.”

Bridgeview police are teaming up with Burbank police this year.

“This is their first time at Manteno, so we’re taking a bus,” Brander said. “There are about 15 people on our team and the same for Burbank.”

If you want more information or want to donate to the cause, visit www.soill.org. There you can click on Polar Plunge 2022.

“So far, we have raised as a team just over $9,000,” Brander said. “That’s strictly for the Polar Plunge. That’s the highest we’ve gotten for the Polar Plunge itself. We set a goal of $12,500 and we’re pretty close.”

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