Super Plunger Josh Latina of Marengo will jump into Lake Michigan 24 times in 24 hours
By JAMI KUNZER - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cold is one way to put it. Crazy is another. As he has for the past several years, Josh Latina, an Algonquin police officer, will brave frigid temperatures to jump into even more frigid waters in Lake Michigan. And then he’ll do it again. Every hour. For 24 hours.
“You just kind of suck it up and go,” said Latina of Marengo.
Latina is a super plunger. He’s among about 30 brave men and women expected to take part in this year’s eighth annual Super Polar Plunge, a benefit for the Special Olympics Illinois hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The event takes place from 2 p.m. Feb. 22 to 1 p.m. Feb. 23 at Lake Michigan in Evanston. Heated tents, food, first aid kits and support people await the plungers after each jump.
They must raise a minimum of $2,500 to take 24 icy dips into the lake, one every hour. Yes, they pay to freeze.
Why? “To raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics,” Latina said. “That’s the whole reason I’m doing this. ... I got involved through the police department, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Through a fundraising page set up at www.firstgiving.com, Latina hopes to raise $3,000, more than last year’s $2,900 effort.
He’ll then join other plunges for a day’s worth of camaraderie and shivers.
The plungers don’t have to go under water, but many do anyway.
“I try to go under when the news cameras are there,” Latina said. “You don’t want to do it too often; your head will start to hurt. It’s like a super brain freeze.”
Other than that, there’s not much advice to offer or preparation to it.
Although Latina does stretch before each dip.
“Once you hit the water, you want to sprint as fast as you can out of the water,” he said. “You try not to pull any muscles or anything, and then take a cold shower a week before.
“But it doesn’t compare to how cold it is. ... One year, it was so bad it was all iced over, and they had to punch a hole in the ice.”
He has his wife, Emily, as a support person by his side, and his two sons, Kalin, 6, and Karsen, 3, who like to visit throughout the day.
“They love the whole atmosphere of it,” Latina said.
They’d really like to jump in with their dad. Perhaps when they’re older.
Along with the Super Plunge, 20 other one-time Polar Plunges benefit the statewide Special Olympics. Those participants must raise a minimum of $75 each.
But it’s the Super Plunge that kicks off the plunge season, said Barbara DiGuido, director of communications and media relations for Special Olympics Illinois.
“They have their own little routine they do with somebody leading the cheer and getting everybody revved up,” she said.
The money raised through all the plunges, about $1.6 million last year, goes toward the Special Olympics’ 19 summer and winter sports, and the agency hopes to add more and increase its number of athletes over the next three years, she said.
Other plunges, including a March 3 Chicago Polar Plunge at North Avenue Beach, benefit Special Olympics in Chicago. All are Law Enforcement Torch Run fundraisers.
Law enforcement groups started the plunges as a unique and creative way to raise money for Special Olympics. The idea has paid off.
The 13th annual Chicago Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in Chicago alone raised $650,000 last year. This year’s goal is $1 million, Executive Director Susan Nicholl said.
Unlike black-tie events and other more elaborate fundraisers, the cost of the plunges are minimal, she said. From an economical standpoint, it would be difficult to duplicate the success of the plunges, she said.
And those who do it gain a lifetime of bragging rights.
“You know some people think they’re outgoing and adventurous,” she said. “This really is kind of the measuring stick, the yard stick.”