Unsung Hero: Helping Special Olympics

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By Ashley Smith
By Josue

CARTERVILLE -- Each year, brave men and women jump into a frigid and sometimes icy lake, all to support a good cause. The annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge is taking place this weekend to support Special Olympics in southern Illinois. 

"After Christmas rolled around, it's Polar Plunge time!" said Progress Port General Manager Lori Jones.
 
Progress Port provides life skills to those with intellectual disabilities. Many of them work at the recycling center on site. 
 
Jones says the staff and everyone at Progress Port work hard to make this event a success. 
 
Roberta Dillon has been collecting donations and pledges from friends and neighbors for this year's polar plunge.
 
"I go door-to-door and show them a piece of paper. I have them sign their name, how much they can put in there," said Roberta.
 
Progress Port has won the "Most Money Raised by a Group" award in years past. They hope to do that again.
 
"Recycling customers are wonderful. They always donate, and then of course, the businesses that recycle for us, they always donate so we have a very generous group that supports us," said Lori.
 
The group chooses a theme each year and dresses accordingly. Last year, it was Wizard of Oz.
 
"I was Dorothy!" said Roberta, "I was in a princess costume, I had a crown and I was the first one to get in the water with the scuba divers."
 
"I was Dorothy, and I had a stuffed animal for Toto, and I had a basket and I had pigtails in my hair and ribbon, and I had the slippers, too," said plunger Kayla Gwinn.
 
Kayla already has her outfit picked out for this year's theme, Mardi Gras.
 
Everyone agrees that this event is all about freezin' for a reason!
 
"To help out Special Olympics," said plunger Donnie Ryan, "I do Special Olympics. I do basketball, we go to state next month."
 
This is one of the largest fundraisers for Special Olympics.  The money helps pay for food and travel expenses for the athletes who compete year round.
 
"I think it's the sense of helping," explains Lori, "They're helping Special Olympics. They know what Special Olympics is, and they love to be part of Special Olympics, so I think they know that this means the success of Special Olympics so they're excited about helping."
  
If you would like to join the fun, you can take the plunge Saturday, Feb. 22 at SIU Campus Lake in Carbondale or Saturday, Mar. 1 at South Sandusky Beach at Rend Lake. Registration begins at 10:00 a.m. the day of the event.
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