Worth police officers dived into a pool to raise funds for the Special Olympics during the annual  Polar Plunge last year at Altman Park. (Photo by Joe Boyle)

Worth police officers dived into a pool to raise funds for the Special Olympics during the annual Polar Plunge last year at Altman Park. (Photo by Joe Boyle)

Worth police officers take a plunge for Special Olympics

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Worth Mayor Mary Werner (center) is joined by (from left) Samantha “Sam” Nilles, a teacher’s aide at Worth Elementary School, and Linda Esposito, director of curriculum and instruction for Worth School District 127, during the annual FOP Polar Plunge Saturday at Altman Park. Nilles has raised over $1,1000 for the event. Esposito is a fixture at the charitable event and often takes part in the plunges.

By Joe Boyle

The Worth Police Department is paid to serve and protect its citizens.

But on Saturday afternoon, they were called on for special duty — taking a plunge for a good cause.

The Worth Fraternal Order of Police held its seventh annual Polar Plunge at Altman Park. The police department, along with the help of volunteers, provided a nearly four-foot pool under the pavilion for brave volunteers to take a dip.

Three members of the police department — Chris Ferchau, Joel Frias and Kevin McAlpine — braved the elements and dived into the pool to raise funds for the Special Olympics.

“We love doing this, absolutely,” Ferchau said before he dived in the pool. “It’s just great to do this for Special Olympics. We have raised over $6,000 already and we continue to take donations until the end of March.”

The three officers are the main organizers of the event. Although the water was cold, none of them were complaining.

“All the money goes to the Special Olympics,” Ferchau said. “That’s why we do this. Last year, we raised over $11,000.”

Village Clerk Bonnie Price attended the event and said the annual fundraiser and party is a testament to the village.

“For a small department, we do really well,” said Price, who has been the village clerk since 2000. “Everyone is so really generous.”

Mayor Mary Werner was on hand to watch the proceedings and cheer on the volunteers who jumped in the pool. The mayor pointed to Samantha “Sam” Nilles, a teacher’s aide at Worth Elementary School, as someone who contributes to the plunge every year.

“She has donated over $1,000 this year through contributions she has gotten,” Werner said. “She also often takes part in the plunge.”

Nilles said this is the fourth year she gathered donations for the FOP Polar Plunge. As of Saturday, Nilles said she has raised over $1,100.

“I start raising funds a month in advance,” Nilles said. “I just go out there and hope for the best. A lot of people want to help.”

Another longtime contributor is Linda Esposito, the current director of curriculum and instruction for Worth School District 127. She was formerly the principal for Worthwoods Elementary School.

“She is very dedicated and has only missed one day of work dating back to 1981,” Werner said about Esposito. “She is here all the time and has taken part in a lot of plunges.”

Along with the police officers and other volunteers who dived in the pool, village officials and residents attend the event. A barbecue was also held as visitors had an opportunity to eat hamburgers, hot dogs and other treats.

Guests stayed warm as volunteers collected several logs and lit them on fire for some relief.

Werner smiled at the crowd that gathered and for the effort put in by the FOP and volunteers.

“It’s a good time and it’s for a good cause,” the mayor said.

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