CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he’ll know better than to bet against Chicago’s kids, after he ended up having to eat his words when he challenged them to read 2 million books last summer.
The mayor agreed to take part in the annual Polar Plunge this year if the city’s kids were up to his challenge, and they were more than up to the task.
“Our kids read, and they read, and they read,” Chicago Public Library children’s librarian Liz McChesney said.
So on Sunday, the mayor will jump into Lake Michigan, along with about 3,000 other volunteers.
“I often say ‘Never bet against the kids of the city of Chicago.’ I just wish once I had listened to my own advice,” Emanuel said. “I made a bet to the children of the city of Chicago, and I took a whoopin’ … which is about to happen on Sunday. I cannot think of anything else better to take a whoopin’ on than the kids reading.”
He’ll know better this summer before making a new reading challenge for Chicago’s children, and he joked he might do more than just give kids a bigger mountain to climb. He might give himself an easier task to perform if they meet his goal again.
“The goal is not 2 million, but I’m raising it much higher,” the mayor said. “We are also now evaluating something … like maybe a hot dog at the [Wieners] Circle, or something like that.”
Though the mayor is a regular swimmer, he said there’s nothing he can do to get ready for a dip in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan on Sunday.
“It’s 32 degrees. I swim in a pool that’s 79. There’s no way to prepare for this,” Emanuel said. “You wouldn’t do this if it was normal, folks. This is not a normal thing to do, which is why 3,000 people are doing it, and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
The Polar Plunge benefits the Special Olympics, and Emanuel got a little choked up as he talked the charity’s mission.
“Special Olympics provides every child and every adult an opportunity to shine,” he said. “Every one of those individuals can stand at this podium and be recognized. We don’t have a person to waste.”
Jennifer Kramer, president of Special Olympics Chicago, said they expect to raise a record $1 million from this year’s plunge, thanks to those sponsoring the 3,000 plungers.
“This is an enormously impactful and important event for Special Olympics in Chicago. It’s our largest fundraiser of the year. Supports 5,500 athletes citywide,” she said.
Emanuel acknowledged there is a lot of excitement for this year’s plunge with new “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon joining him in braving the icy water at North Avenue Beach.
“I give him a lot of credit. I think he will agree with me he will be on the committee for next year’s evaluation, how many books have to be read before we do something like this,” the mayor said.
Fallon joined the Polar Plunge this year after Emanuel offered to be on his show if Fallon joined him in taking the plunge.