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The pandemic pushes Chicago Polar Plunge to go virtual this year

This is the year for people who can’t bring themselves to jump into Lake Michigan in March, organizers say.

Participants flee the frigid water during the 19th annual Chicago Polar Plunge.
The Chicago Polar Plunge is going virtual this year. Blame the coronavirus pandemic.
Sun-Times file photo

Through the years, it’s attracted the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Vince Vaughn and Lady Gaga — as well as thousands of others willing to charge into a frigid Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach to raise money for charity.

But the organizers of the Chicago Polar Plunge announced Tuesday the annual event — now in its 21st year — is going virtual. Blame the coronavirus. Organizers say it’s the first time in the event’s history that the event had been canceled.

Last year, the plunge raised about $2.2 million, with about 4,800 people participating. The money goes to support the 7,500 participants of the Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities program.

“Although the Chicago Polar Plunge will look different this year, it remains the most important fundraiser of the year for our organization, as it helps to fund 70% of our programs and enables us to continue to provide unique, safe activities and experiences for our 7,500 athletes,” Carolyn Daley, president of SOC/SCC, said in a statement.

“This is the perfect year for those who have not participated in the Plunge in the past, and who may have found the idea of jumping into Lake Michigan during the cold March weather a little daunting. The Virtual Chicago Polar Plunge allows everyone to participate in whichever manner they choose.”

The Plunge folks are encouraging people to register for the virtual event at The virtual event, which runs March 1-7, will allow participants to “plunge safely in a setting of their choosing, whether it be jumping in the snow or running through a sprinkler.” For more information, go to the website or call 312-527-3743.