At 11 a.m. Saturday, a few dozen people gathered in the parking lot of the Bourbonnais Municipal Center to witness a creative shift in Bourbonnais Police Department’s annual Polar Plunge event to support the Special Olympics Illinois.

Due to health and safety concerns surrounding COVID, the normal event of plunging into Lake Manteno was swapped out for a more socially distanced option.

With the help of the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District, the team of officers and additional participants had 500 gallons of water dumped on them from the 85-foot high ladder of fire engine Tower 69.

Nine individuals — including officers and those who raised funds to participate — took turns running through the cold water on a brisk 40-degree day. Families and members of the community came out in support of the plungers and Special Olympics.

Before the hose was even turned on, the department had already reached its fundraising goal. After raising over $3,800 last year, they set 2021’s goal to surpass that number. As of Saturday morning, the amount raised was over $4,100. They are continuing to accept donations online throughout the month of March.

Deputy Chief Dave Anderson explained that, after they had to skip the annual Torch Run last year, they wanted to find a way to not let this year’s Polar Plunge pass by.

“This was a way that we could also partner up with our local fire department, still get wet and still support our Special Olympics which is what we love doing,” said Anderson.

Anderson credits Detective Jason Sztuba for helping spearhead this new idea. Both Anderson and Sztuba took a turn running through the chilly waterfall.

While it’s been difficult over the past year to accomplish the fundraising that the department and the community are accustomed to, Anderson and Sztuba agreed that coming up with creative alternatives to benefit the Special Olympics is well worth the effort.

“This is one of the reasons I became a police officer is so that I could help the public. I like to support and help our community,” Sztuba said. “The Special Olympians we meet, we’re sad they can’t be here today because of COVID-19. It’s great to go to these events and see all of them, get to know them and develop relationships with them.”

To honor the prior years of the Polar Plunge, the truck tower was decked out with official Plunge sweatshirts dating back to 2014. In addition to benefiting the Olympians, Anderson said that these events are important opportunities to involve the younger officers in order to show them how their fundraising efforts help the community.

The department is working on what the Torch Run will look like this year, while Anderson aims to pass said torch to Sztuba.

“Sztuba is the one I’m going to be trying to pass fundraising efforts and the Torch Run to as I get closer to the end of my career,” Anderson said. “I’ve been doing it since 2008.”

For more “Brrrbonnais Police Department” Polar Plunge history, and for information on how to donate, visit tinyurl.com/BourbonnaisPolar.