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Dozens Take Polar Plunge For Charity

A swimmer for American Greyhound grabs a towel after taking a dip in Lake Michigan on New Year's Day in a Polar Plunge to raise awareness of efforts to find homes for retired greyhound racing dogs. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

A swimmer for American Greyhound grabs a towel after taking a dip in Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day in a Polar Plunge to raise awareness of efforts to find homes for retired greyhound racing dogs. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Several dozen people celebrated New Year’s Day on Sunday by taking a dip in Lake Michigan to help raise money for charity.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, the air temperature was 38 degrees, the lake temperature was 37 degrees and the wind was blowing pretty hard when American Greyhound President Jeff Coggins and his group hit the water at North Avenue Beach to raise awareness for efforts to find homes for retired racing greyhounds.

“It’s cold and it’s miserable. But you know what? It’s a lot less cold and a lot less miserable than it would be for those racing greyhounds if they didn’t have us to help them out,” Coggins said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

Organizers hoped to raise more than $12,000.

He and the others had stripped down to their swimsuits for a very brief swim. This is his fifth year for the Polar Plunge.

“I say that each time is worse than the last, but in all honesty it’s miserable each time. And you know what, it’s a bonus this year. I’ve got 366 days before I have to do it again,” Coggins said.

Before Coggins’ group ran into Lake Michigan, a lone swimmer braved the cold and did the same thing, without press announcement or fanfare.

Kathy Spiewak has seen worse New Year’s Days in Lake Michigan.

“There’s no ice out there either. So I didn’t have to get hit with ice this year,” she said. “I look forward to it. I actually enjoy the cold.”

Spiewak was a one-woman show, going into the lake by herself to support her great-niece Natalie Martinez, who has cystic fibrosis.

“She’s 5 right now. Average age, now they’re saying, could be 40. We’ve lost three under the age of 16 in the family, so we’re hoping this one goes to 40 – or older,” Spiewak said.

Spiewak’s was hoping to raise donations to find a cure for cystic fibrosis through the website crazyfornatalie.com.