CHICAGO (WBBM) — Twenty-seven hearty people are plunging once an hour into Lake Michigan for 24 hours.

What some might consider lunacy is actually a successful fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Illinois.

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Some tiptoe into Lake Michigan from Northwestern University’s North Beach, in Evanston, to their knees, cringe and run ashore. Others plunge in head first and luxuriate, or at least play as much as they dare in the 34-degree water.

Special Olympics Special Events Director Jeff Henson is one of those taking the plunge.

“It’s cold,” he said. “We’ve got 24 times that we’re going in If you go in to your waist or go and plunge all the way under, we’re good either way.”

He figures that each of the participants, who range in age from 22 to retirees in their late 60s, have earned the right to decide how.

“You definitely have to be committed to the cause to do this,” he said. “Each Super Plunger raised a minimum of $2,500 to do this.”

As a result, the Special Olympics “plungers” have raised more than $90 thousand. Some are spending their spare time tweeting, in search of more donations, and Henson said he expects the total raised by the 27 to exceed $100,000 by the time the hourly plunges end Saturday afternoon.

This is the sixth year for the Special Olympics Super Plunge. The event raised $305,000 in its first five years.

The plungers are staying in three big, heated tents about 30 feet from shore. The tents are stocked with hot drinks and food, although there are also plentiful supplies of soda and energy drinks.

A big clock sits at the south end of the main tent, counting down the time to the next plunge.

For those not quite as thick-skinned or hearty, Special Olympics is offering a chance to take one plunge at 18 other locations statewide over the next three weeks. The minimum contribution is $75.

The money raised goes toward Special Olympics activities in Illinois, the state in which the movement was founded in the 1960s. An estimated 27,000 Special Olympics athletes in Illinois compete in 19 sports.

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