Pulse: Polar plunge to Shannon Miller

Take the Plunge

Special Olympics Illinois benefits

Jumping into Lake Michigan in February doesn’t sound super, but to 43 brave plungers, it was just that.

Last weekend, thrill-seekers from across Illinois took part in the ninth annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Super Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. The special league of 43 plungers, including Naperville resident Randy Broadhurst, began jumping into the lake at North Beach in Evanston on Feb. 21 and continued once an hour for 24 hours until Feb. 22.

“We have many returning super plungers who are determined to continue the challenge,” said Matt Johnson for Special Olympics Illinois. “These Plungers are showcasing their commitment to the many Special Olympics athletes who often display the same perseverance when working to achieve both their athletic and personal goals.”

This year’s Super Plunge raised about $166,000, which will help provide funding for year-round sports training and competition opportunities for the almost 39,000 athletes in Illinois.

Missed the plunge? No problem. There is a plunge planned for March 2 in Yorkville at Silver Springs State Park and March 8 in Joliet at Leisure Lakes. For more information, visit www.plungeillinois.com.

Polar guest

Olympic gymnast to speak at North

Every year Naperville North High School presents the Phil Lawler PE Health and Driver Ed Conference, but this year, a special guest will be on hand offering her Olympic perspective.

Shannon Miller, America’s most decorated gymnast, will speak to participants at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 28.

“We’ve been holding this conference for about 35 years now and have partnered for some time with ‘Polar’ heart rate monitors, who have arranged to bring Shannon here,” said Paul Zientarski, a physical education and educational consultant for Naperville Community School District 203. “Shannon is going to speak on the issue of childhood obesity in this country and about her foundation, which focuses on fighting obesity in kids.”

Miller also will talk about how technology is being used in physical education programs to motivate students and help teachers objectively evaluate them based on their individual efforts.

The conference normally attracts 1,200 to 1,500 physical education, driver’s education and health teachers from throughout local school districts as well as most of the states in the Midwest.

“We have 70 presentations scheduled throughout the day, and speakers coming from as far away as California and Canada,” Zientarski said. “We’re excited to have someone of Shannon’s caliber come and speak, and she’ll be available afterwards at the Polar table, who will be one the vendors here.”

Reasons to eat

Naperville version of Restaurant Week kicks off

Chicago has long held Restaurant Week, offering diners special enticements and deals to introduce them to new venues and cuisines. This week, Naperville launched its own version with the debut of Naperville Restaurant Week, which continues through Monday, March 3.

Ray Kinney, president of the Naperville Restaurant Association, said he has wanted to see a Naperville version of the Chicago event for a few years, and that a committee finally sat down last fall and threw some plans together.

“We have over 40 restaurants participating, and so far, we’re hearing that it’s going really well,” Kinney said. “We didn’t make any stipulations or follow a template — we’re letting restaurants do whatever they want as far as pricing and specials. And we’ve had participation from sitdown restaurants to fast food places like Subway and Jersey Mike’s get involved.”

Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said 23 restaurants were participating downtown and that owners were eager to do this.

“We’re having 16 days of this altogether, and with all the participants, you can go to lunch one place and dinner another and still not cover them all,” she said. “This offers a way to sample a lot of places at a lot of various price points.”

Kinney said Naperville has 260 restaurants, and he hopes next year’s restaurant preview event will grow to 100 participants.

“There are cities all over the country that do this kind of thing just like they have in Chicago, and when we talked with some of the restaurant people out here who have other locations in Chicago or have worked in the city, they all said it would be a good idea,” Kinney said.

He said to expect an even bigger and better event next year.

For a list of restaurants, visit www.dinenaperville.com/participating-restaurants.

don’t Dodge this

Dodgeball tournament benefits ALS Foundation

Naperville residents will team up for a good cause during the third annual Dodgin’ 4 Lou Gehrig’s Disease Dodge Ball tournament Friday, Feb. 28, at Naperville North High School.

The tournament will honor Meadow Glens Elementary School physical education teacher Chris Benyo and his wife, Denise DiMarzo, who is living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Proceeds will benefit the Les Turner ALS Foundation.

“We have a lot of fun planning the dodgeball tournaments, and knowing that our hard work brings together people to support Mr. Benyo and his wife as they fight ALS makes it all worth the time and energy,” said Delaney Gibbons, who founded the event with friend Taylor Morrissey. “We are excited for this year’s tournament, and are putting in place new ideas, such as traveling trophies and an expanded silent auction.”

Since the tournament began, the girls have raised more than $28,000. This year, they are aiming for $20,000.

Spectators are encouraged to attend the tournament, which is $3 to enter. For more information, contact Gibbons, 630-750-0358, or Morrissey, 630-803-2595. In addition, updates are shared on the “Dodgin-For Lou-Gehrigs Dodgeball-Tournament” Facebook page.

Comedy ensues

Central High School presents ‘The Foreigner’

You won’t need a passport or suitcase to make the trip to Naperville Central High School next week when the theater department presents “The Foreigner,” opening March 6.

“I feel that it is one of the funniest shows I have ever read; Larry Shue (the author) does such a wonderful job of creating characters that we truly care about,” said director Tom Ulbrich.

“The Foreigner” tells the story of England native Charlie Baker, who travels to a fishing lodge in Georgia with his best friend, Froggy. When Charlie pretends he doesn’t speak English, comedy ensues.

“The show carries a great message of how we need to accept each other no matter what our background is,” Ulbrich added. “You could say that the theme is acceptance.”

The show opens Thursday at 7 p.m. and plays at 8 p.m. March 7 and 8. Tickets are $5. For more information, call the Central theater box office at 630-420-3885.

Sweet visit

Second-graders get lesson in chocolate

Things were definitely sweet at Fry Elementary School last week thanks to a special visit from Fannie May Fine Chocolate’s chief chocolatier Elliott Callahan. On Feb. 21, Callahan visited the second-grade classroom for a lesson in “Chocolate 101.”

“Our adventure started with Elliott telling us about where chocolate comes from, from the plant to the trays where the chocolate bars are formed,” said Fry teacher Erin Mongelli, who won the visit after entering a sweepstakes drawing for teachers in August. “Students were able to see the cacao fruit pod, the cacao beans, and even taste the crushed cacao beans before sugar is added.”

Then, Mongelli said, things got even sweeter.

“Then the real fun began,” the teacher said. “Students were able to dip a pretzel and strawberry in chocolate. They loved wearing the aprons, and each student was given a goodie bag of chocolates and some coloring and activity pages for back in the classroom.”

Mongelli took home a “yummy tower of chocolate” as well. That surely made grading papers and preparing her lesson plans a little easier.