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Algonquin police officer plans 24 leaps into Lake Michigan for Special Olympics

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Five years and he's still not frozen. Yet.

Josh Latina, a Marengo native and Algonquin Police officer, once again will take 24 ice cold plunges into Lake Michigan to raise money for the Special Olympics Illinois hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

As one of a small group of brave Super Plungers, he'll jump into the frigid waters every hour from 2 p.m. Feb. 21 until 1 p.m. Feb. 22. Yes, every single hour.

Latino first became part of the Super Polar Plunge five years ago when asked by a fellow officer.

"It kind of became the one event I do every year. Now everybody who knows me knows I do the Polar Plunge," he said. "If you're not going to do it, they want you to find someone to replace you. I haven't found anyone crazy enough to replace me."

After raising about $3,000 last year through pledges at www.firstgiving.com (search for Team Algonquin), he hopes to raise $3,500 this year to benefit Special Olympics. As of late last week, he'd raised nearly $2,000.

The event kicks off the Super Plunge season for Speical Olympics Illinois, with about 20 other one-time Polar Plunges taking place throughout the state. The money goes toward the Special Olympics summer and winter sports events.

Plungers, including the Super Plungers, don't have to go completely under water, but many do anyway.

Aside from the inevitable shivers, especially if this season's exceptionally frigid temperatures continue, the sleep deprivation can be tough, Latina said.

"Between 2 and 3 a.m., it gets really hard," he said. "It's like when you have to get up for work. You want 10 more minutes and the buzzer goes off. You don't want to be that guy that doesn't plunge."

The camaraderie between the plungers, as well as the support of Latina's co-workers, family and friends, helps him endure.

"It's a pretty tight group," he said of the plungers. "You're in one tent for 24 hours so everyone is helping everyone. It's a team effort."

Latina hasn't gotten ill after the event, but does have trouble getting warm for at least a day.

This year, he admits the abnormally cold weather is making him a bit apprehensive. But, he said, he'll freeze through.

"I can't look forward to spring until after the plunge," he said.

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