Dunk tank brings down pols for charity

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For the second straight year, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart visited their alma mater, Mt. Carmel High School, to be sent into a dunk tank to support the Chicago Polar Plunge benefitting Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities (SOC/SCC).

And for the second straight year, the crowd roared in approval on frigid day in which many Mt. Carmel faculty also were dropped into the tank.

Students donated money to take a few throws at the tank on Feb. 7, and O’Shea was happy to start the official countdown to the plunge.

“It’s great to kick off what will be the SOC Chicago Polar Plunge season here at Mt. Carmel. I’m so proud of our school and to see the energy here. We’re going to get a bunch of these kids out there on [March 5] to plunge and raise [funds]. Fun—lot of fun.”

The dunk-tank fundraiser took place in Barda-Dowling Stadium, with students cheering on from the bleachers.

Auctions were held before each series of throws, with students offering up a few bucks for a chance to take aim at O’Shea, Dart and other brave souls.

It was all part of the build-up to the 23rd annual Polar Plunge, which will begin at 10 a.m. on March 5 at North Avenue Beach. As part of SOC/SCC’s largest fundraiser, thousands of people will plunge into Lake Michigan to support thousands of athletes with special needs.

The Special Olympics started in Chicago, with the first games held at Soldier Field in 1968.

O’Shea is the vice president of SOC/SCC, one of many roles he has held with the nonprofit.

He graduated from Mt. Carmel in 1987.

“The Mt. Carmel family’s always such a strong supporter of our Special Olympics athletes,” O’Shea said. “As we all know, the Special Olympics mission started right here in the city of Chicago. I’m so honored to be back at my school today and so proud of these students and faculty for raising dollars today.”

As he has for many years, O’Shea is challenging local high school students to take the plunge.

Last year’s event raised over $1.8 million with over 3,600 participants and 350 teams.

The usual requirement for participants is to raise $200, but high school students have to raise only $100.

O’Shea was sent into the tank by his son, Patrick O’Shea, and Dart, a 1980 Mt. Carmel graduate who lives in Mt. Greenwood, was the first person to be dunked.

Before Dart took his seat, he said he was proud to be back at his alma mater.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “It’s worth the pneumonia that I’m about to catch.”

He also said he has been participating in the plunge for 20 years.

“The cause is amazing,” Dart said. “The amount of money that these students raise is absolutely incredible.”

Mt. Carmel President Brendan Conroy said students frequently support SOC/SCC.

And he was thrilled to have alums such as O’Shea and Dart back on campus.

“They still look great in Mt. Carmel colors,” Conroy said. “We’re especially proud because our young men have embraced Special Olympics here in Chicago—not only today, but throughout the school year.

“They come back with stories about how much they’ve learned from the Special Olympians they meet.”

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February 14, 2023 at 01:17PM

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