The annual Polar Plunge event draws several thousand hearty plungers to raise money for Special Olympics Chicago.
Scores of people dressed in parkas and polar bear outfits, some carrying signs, gathered along the lakefront early Sunday. Chicago firefighters in red wetsuits waded in before the waves of brave souls, throwing chunks of ice out of the area.
The 10-degree temperature made 2014's Polar Plunge one of the coldest since the event began 14 years ago. However, the plungers seemed immune to the cold.
"I just love the atmosphere. Everybody's so happy," five-time plunger Cassie Cook told FOX 32 News. "It's for a great cause and everything. You are really freezing for a reason."
"This year I was able to raise over $1,000." Three-time plunger Danny Sanchez said.
FOX 32 Chief Meteorologist Bill Bellis, an expert when it comes to the cold, couldn't resist taking the plunge once again.
"I mean, are you kidding me?" Bellis asked jokingly. "Kids and adults that still want to be athletes, it just breaks my heart. I got two lucky kids here. I'm blessed to have two healthy kids."
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Marilyn Lamanna and a friend got up at 5 a.m. to snag a spot where they hoped to watch the feat unfold.
"Between Jimmy Fallon and the Special Olympics, it doesn't get much better than that, even though it's super cold," Lamanna said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last summer that if city's children read 2 million books as part of a Chicago Public Library program called "Rahm's Readers," he'd jump in the lake.
An hour before the plunge, Emanuel was dressed in sweats and sipping coffee. He got emotional as he talked to reporters about meeting the mother of a special needs child in a Chicago grocery store on Saturday, saying she was grateful for his participation in the event. He said that they cried and hugged.
"There are parents out there, there are children out there who have something they can give," Emanuel said.
Jen Kramer, President of Special Olympics Chicago, credits Fallon and Emanuel with attracting more than 3,000 people for the run into the lake from the city's North Avenue beach. That's more than ever; last year 2,300 people took part.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.