Ready to take the plunge
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent February 1, 2013 2:12PM
Three sisters, Maria, Galvan (from left), Jessica Galn-Christianson and Teresa Krofta, don't give each other gifts, they work together to support their individual causes. One of them is the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics. | submitted photo
If you go
What: Joliet Polar Plunge to Benefit Special Olympics
When: March 9. Registration is at 10 a.m. The plunge is at noon.
Where: Leisure Lakes, 21900 southwest frontage road, Joliet
Etc.: Only registered plungers will be allowed in the water. A parent or guardian must sign the waiver form if a plunger is under age 18.
Cost: Registered plungers must raise $75. Post-plunge party follows and is free to plungers, $7.50 for guests.
For more information: www.soill.org/content.php?sec=Law%20Enforcement%20Torch%20Run&cat=Polar%20Plunges.
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:06AM
Last year, when Teresa Krofta, 32, of Crest Hill, agreed to support her sisters in the Illinois Torch Run Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics, she did so without actually realizing how cold a winter lake is.
Krofta played it the smart way (she thought) by dressing in leggings and a long-sleeved shirt as opposed to the bikinis and Speedos the other plungers wore. As she stood poised at the lakefront on an 18-degree day (10 degrees with the wind chill), Krofta thought, “This is not going to be good.”
The Polar Plunge, Krofta said, funds programs for more than 21,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities. More than 11,000 athletes are between the ages of 2 and 7. Providing these adults and children with team sports and individual events allows them to challenge and stretch their abilities.
“Plunging is the easy part,” Krofta said. “I showed the crowd that I have the guts to dive into cold, deep water. Within minutes, it is over and I’m warm and dressed again. The athletes of the Special Olympics have the heart. They’re the ones working day in and day out toward their goals.”
At the appointed time, Krofta dashed out 60 feet until the water was hip level and then turned and sped back. Actually diving into the frigid water was not mandatory. As Krofta ran to the warming tents, she learned the wisdom of “less is more” when it came to polar-plunging fashion.
“It took me a long time to remove all the clothing,” Krofta said. “By the time I got everything off, my pants were frozen and my socks were crunching with ice.”
Although it might appear that hypothermia is a concern when immersing oneself in frigid waters, Krofta said that risk is really quite low. The plungers are not in the water for more than 30 seconds, and they immediately head to the warming tents, which are set to 74 degrees and filled with warm clothing, blankets and drinks.
“No one hangs around outside,” Krofta said.
Plunging with Krofta again this year are her sisters, Jessica Christianson, 34, of Midlothian, a Special Olympics volunteer with the youth athletic program for the 2- to 7-year-olds, and Maria Galvan, 29, of Oak Forest.
Christianson works for Palos Sports, which supplies athletic equipment for the Special Olympics. While attending an event when she was expecting her daughter Olivia, now 3, Christianson decided to volunteer, too.
“Every parent hopes for that healthy and happy child, but sometimes you don’t get that ‘perfect’ child,” Christianson said. “It’s nice to know there are programs that help children with autism and Down syndrome develop their skills, too, despite their disabilities.”
After serving as “towel-bearer” to volunteers participating in an extreme polar plunge (jumping into a cold lake every hour on the hour for 24 hours), Christianson approached Krofta and Galvan about the regular polar plunge.
These sisters long ago had made an agreement: instead of gifts for birthdays and holidays, they would support each other’s causes. So no one hesitated when Christianson proposed the Polar Plunge.
Galvan, who had played sports her entire life, believes even special needs individuals should experience the social pleasures and life lessons associated with participating in competitive sports.
“I think learning to win and lose gracefully and as a team is important to be successful as an adult,” Galvan said. “To be honest, though, I was nervous when the day came, the coldest one we’d had all winter. Then I thought, ‘What’s going to happen? I’ll run in, get cold and then warm up.’”
Last year, as a team, Krofta and her sisters raised over $1,600 for Special Olympics. This year, the sisters have each set their own goals. Krofta’s is $1,500. If Krofta reaches it, she promises to plunge underwater. Donate at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teresakrofta/2013-polar-plunge-joliet.
“If I don’t get it,” Krofta said, “I’m not dunking.”