Park Ridge cops take polar plunge
Park Ridge Police Commander Duane Mellema (left), Maine South Principal Shawn Messmer (middle) and Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski (back right) jumped in Lake Michigan to benefit Special Olympics. | Michael Jarecki~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:33AM
EVANSTON — Though the beach on the campus of Northwestern University was covered in a fresh coat of snow and the volleyball nets flapped in the cold Lake Michigan breeze, it was still seen as perfect swimming weather for some on Saturday.
The staff of the Law Enforcement Torch Run were able to cut through the shoreline ice to create just enough of an opening for dozens of police officers and fellow fundraisers to soak in the experience of the 2013 polar plunge on Feb. 23.
Plungers gathered inside heated tents for one last warm-up before waiting in line for their turn to test the 40-degree water. Supporters included representatives from the Park Ridge Police Department and community.
“Ever see the movie Titanic?” Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski said, trying to describe what everyone was in for. “I’m a short-termer. I only go in once.”
The chief’s dive was nothing compared to his officer Julie Genualdi, who was participating in the 24-hour challenge. Genualdi stepped foot into Lake Michigan once an hour for 24 straight hours as she and her fellow officers raised money for Special Olympics Illinois.
“There’s a very brave group of people here,” Genualdi said. “Some people did push-ups, belly flops and I saw some somersaults.”
The department hopes to raise $15,000 for their entire year of fundraising for Special Olympics and should top $5,500 just for taking the plunge.
A little recruitment to help reach their goal didn’t hurt either as Maine South High School Principal Shawn Messmer and several students met the officers on the lakefront.
“I thought I’d man-up and join their cause,” Messmer said. “I’m just going in and couldn’t even begin to have a plan.”
Messmer’s brother in Philadelphia offered a challenge, stating it would not be considered a true plunge unless Messmer’s entire body was submerged, which he gladly did.
“I dropped all the way down,” Messmer said outside the warming tent. “It was very cold, slightly painful, but not bad overall.”
Chief Kaminski met the challenge as well and had nothing but praise for his team.
“It was really shallow and cold but I got down to my knees,” Kaminski said. “We’re really proud of these kids coming out and showing their support.”
More information about Special Olympics Illinois is available at www.soill.org and plunge information can be found by visiting www.plungeillinois.com.