COAL CITY – Local residents answered questions for a cause this past Saturday at the Polar Coalers annual trivia night in Coal City.
Nearly 20 teams participated in the event, which raised $9,225 for the local Starved Rock area Special Olympics organization.
The Polar Coalers is a team of 22 Coal City Community Unit School District 1 employees, administrators and students that participate in the Polar Plunge every year in Yorkville. This will be the third year the team has jumped into the freezing-cold Loon Lake to raise awareness for Special Olympics.
“The cause is so important to all of us doing it,” said Jennifer Swanson, occupational therapist for the district and team organizer. “It’s worth the discomfort.”
Special Olympics is an organization that provides year-round sports competitions and training for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Locally, the Starved Rock chapter offers 16 competitions for 534 athletes in Grundy, Bureau, Henry, LaSalle, Marshall, Putnam and Stark counties.
The more than $9,000 raised at the trivia night will go toward the team’s total fundraising amount, all of which will be donated to the local Starved Rock chapter.
“It’s great because this money will help a lot of Morris and Coal City athletes,” Swanson said.
Saturday’s total was the most money the team has raised from a trivia night, beating last year’s total by more than $1,000. Roughly 200 people attended the event.
“Even with the bad weather, we still had 19 of the 20 teams show up,” Swanson said.
Winners of the competition received prize packages donated by local and national businesses. Swanson said they also received donations from major sports teams for the first time this year.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Kent Bugg, Coal City superintendent, who was the master of ceremonies for the event. “They had a record number of teams this year. ... These ladies put together a really great event.”
Bugg is not on the Polar Coalers team, but has hosted the trivia night for the past two years.
“I’m not doing the plunge. I’m not as brave as those ladies,” Bugg said.
The team – which has doubled in size since it was formed in 2011 – is scheduled to take the plunge at Loon Lake in Yorkville on March 2.
Swanson, who works mainly with special needs students, said the event is not only a major fundraiser for Special Olympics, but a great way to raise awareness.
“These kids are brave. They really put themselves out there and do things that are challenging to them,” Swanson said. “Jumping into a cold lake is a way for us to honor that bravery.”
Swanson has plunged for the past six years in all types of weather conditions, but she said this year will be the coldest by far.
“I expect there will be ice,” she said.
Currently, 13 Coal City High School students are a part of the Polar Coalers, but Swanson said she expects the students to form their own team by next year’s plunge.
“It’s growing really quickly,” she said. “The students have gotten really involved and have a lot of fun with it.”