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Chicago Polar Plunge is Special Cause for Norwood Park Family

NORWOOD PARK — One Northwest Side family plans to make a huge splash in Lake Michigan's icy waters at Sunday morning's Chicago Polar Plunge at North Avenue Beach.

By doing so, the Carden family of Norwood Park will raise a great deal of money for Special Children's Charities.

“The Cardens are a great example of how an entire family can participate and how their enthusiasm rallies support from their community to help raise money for Special Children’s Charities,” said Gerry Henaghan, special recreation manager for the Chicago Park District, which hosts the event.

Katie and Tom Carden and their six children — Tommy (16), Meghan (15), Patrick (12), twins William and Jack (9), and Ryan (3) — have participated in the Polar Plunge since 2010.

That year, "Team Carden" had 20 plungers. The number of participants has grown steadily, and Katie Carden said she's hoping to have nearly 100 this year, including family, friends and neighbors.

"I just think it's great that so many people are supporting our family," said Tom Carden, a Chicago Police officer and Gordon Tech High School graduate.

In the previous three years, Katie Carden said "Team Carden" raised about $30,000. She said it could achieve that mark this year alone.

"For just a little neighborhood team, we're not doing that bad," said Katie Carden, the principal at Faith Hope School in Winnetka.

Ryan Carden, who was born with Down Syndrome, provided the inspiration for the family to start "plunging."

"His siblings are ready to go out and make a difference in the world because of Ryan," Katie Carden said.

Katie and her husband have different methods of training for the event.

Tom Carden is a bit tougher. He spends the week prior running around the block shirtless and in shorts. He also takes cold showers.

Katie Carden admitted she was the "family wimp." She'll wear waterproof ski pants and boots when going into the lake.

"Everybody told me I had to do it, not how to do it," she said.