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CHICAGO —  With Polar Plunge Week underway, some Illinois students decided to participate in a challenge Tuesday that didn’t involve a freezing lake.

What would usually be a singular event at Lake Michigan is now a series of events spanning the city and suburbs due to the pandemic. However, for many, the passion to be a difference-maker is still the same.

At Marist High School, Tuesday marked is a very special occasion.

“I’m freezing but it was really fun,” Asia, a Marist High School junior, said.

Asia and friends ‘Polar Plunged’ for Special Olympics.

What began in Chicago more than 50 years ago, Special Olympics has grown into a worldwide initiative. In all, the events are held in 172 countries, averaging five million participants among 100,000 events.

“We have Special Olympians who are kids, Special Olympians who are senior citizens. We’re proud that they started here in Chicago in 1968,” said 19th District Alderman Matt “Sweetness” O’Shea.

This year, WGN cameras found Parker Baudo, a 5th grader who never lets Down Syndrome stop him from achieving whatever he sets his mind to do.

His Brother, Nolan, tells WGN he’s Parker’s No. 1 fan.

“He means the world to me,” Nolan, a sophomore at Marist, said. “He’s always been my best friend through thick and I think he’s there for me and [Polar Plunge] is a great cause.”

Nolan issued a challenge on Instagram, tagging at least three others to join him in this year’s version of the plunge – jumping into snowbanks with the hashtag #ParkersParty.

The challenge has since grown to 245 high schoolers from nearby schools. Money raised will go toward putting on Special Olympic Games and activities events at Chicago parks and schools.

Lizzy, a freshman at Marist, says, “It’s a good cause to do for people.”

Locals interested in donating to Special Olympics may click here. Anyone interested in signing up for a Polar Plunge may click here.

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