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Hundreds brave Polar Bear Plunge for charity

Reed Christensen of Libertyville runs out of Lake Michigan after participating in the 13th Annual Polar Plunge at the Waukegan Municipal Beach. | Thomas Delany Jr~ Sun-Times Media

Self-proclaimed polar-bear enthusiast Melanie Ricchetti of Round Lake Beach had a polar-bear costume custom-made for Waukegan’s Polar Bear Plunge at the city’s beach on Sunday.

“I have always wanted to do it,” Ricchetti said of making the dive in costume.

Riccehetti bought the fabric and pattern and said her mother made her outfit. The faux fur did not keep Ricchetti from feeling Lake Michigan’s chilly water.

The water was colder than last year, she said.

“It’s fun. Everybody comes out and I enjoy doing it for a good cause,” Ricchetti said.

She was among about 500 people who participated in the 13th annual Polar Bear Plunge.

The water temperature was 41 degrees, air temperature was 35 degrees and the wind was 21 mph with gusts up to 29 mph, according to Waukegan Fire Chief Dan Young. Waukegan Fire Department’s trained divers were in the lake and the rescue squad was on location in case of problems.

Rescues were not needed Sunday.

The event is put on by the City of Waukegan and Waukegan Park District, according to Julie Schneider, manager of Special Recreation at Waukegan Park District.

Proceeds from the Polar Bear Plunge benefit Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County. Plungers pay money to the charity to plunge and some get sponsors to donate money for those who take the dive.