(CBS) – When you picture a polar plunge into Lake Michigan, most people think of ice, wind and snow.

It was different Friday. The Special Olympics Illinois’ annual Super Plunge got underway at 2 p.m. in record warmth at Evanston’s Clark Street beach.

People take to chilly Lake Michigan Friday during the "Super Plunge" benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. (Bob Roberts/WBBM)

People take to chilly Lake Michigan Friday during the “Super Plunge” benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. (Bob Roberts/WBBM)

Three years ago, organizers had to use a backhoe to cut through thick ice to open a bathtub-sized patch of water during an historic cold wave. Now, there’s not an ice cube in sight.

People up and down the beach watched the first few plunges in bikinis, aboard catamarans and even on jet skis.

The warmth is making the plunges no easier for Tinley Park Police Sgt. Bill Devine.


He says the summery beach is deceptive, and that when there’s snow and ice you can get mentally prepared more easily.

Then again, Special Olympics assistant director Alexandra McMillan described those taking part as “plunging elite – extreme and brave.”

Many dove in, and several stayed out in the 34-degree water for several minutes as those on shore snapped photos.

The shock is one that continues once an hour for 24 hours. Each plunger raised at least $2,500 for the privilege of participating.

It is the first of 22 Polar Plunges over the next month raising money for the Special Olympics.