Humane society supporters take the plunge to support adoption center project

The first Mayor's Arctic Dip on Saturday, Jan. 12, used the anniversary of a near-tragedy to have some fun and help prevent tragedies in the future.

A little more than a year has passed since Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld risked his life to rescue one of his dogs, Annie, who was unable to climb out of the frigid water of a lake at Izaak Walton Nature Preserve.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, the village, local businesses and the South Suburban Humane Society partnered in the first Mayor's Arctic Dip, a fundraiser that will help rescue many more animals. 

Hofeld and Annie made a quick trip through a wading pool on Martin Square in downtown Homewood to launch the event. It was a much different experience from the dip they took in December 2017 at the preserve.

That first dip was unplanned. Annie had gotten into one of the preserve's lakes and was unable to escape. Hofeld jumped in, pushed her out, but could not get out of the water because the edge of the ice shelf collapsed when he tried. As a result, he spent 20 minutes in the frigid water until emergency responders arrived. 

The cold dip on Saturday was very different. 

"This is so cool, to turn something that could have been a tragedy for our community into something so fun," said Emily Klehm, director of the humane society.

A number of people followed Hofeld and Annie into the water, a few them bravely doing belly or back flops. Some were fully dressed, some wore summery swim suits. 

The swirling snow falling all day did not daunt the crowd. In fact, it seemed to add to the ambience.

"It makes it a true arctic dip," Klehm said. 

Trustee Jay Heiferman and Village Clerk Marilyn Thomas were among the best dressed for the occasion. Thomas acquired a wet suit to make her dip more tolerable. Heiferman came in a snorkeling outfit. 

The event raised money for the South Suburban Humane Society planned adoption center, which will be developed at the former Homewood Animal Hospital on 183rd Street. Klehm said the event had raised more than $7,000 by Saturday morning.

That will be contributed to a $100,000 goal for renovating the former hospital. The building was purchased by an anonymous benefactor, but Klehm said the structure will need extensive plumbing and electrical work plus new flooring and lighting. 

Klehm said she and the SSHS volunteers were thrilled with the mayor's event and the support from the village and local businesses.

Hofeld has long been a supporter of the humane society. He currently has three dogs, including Annie, but has had 12 over the years, all rescues.

Klehm said the new adoption center could mean saving 800 more animals per year.
Homewood Marketing Director Jennifer Quirke said the event was pure Homewood spirit, noting that people came out on a blustery, snowy day and even got colder with dips in the chilly water. 

"It was a fun-filled celebration of generosity for the new SSHS adoption center," she said. 

Public works crews were at Martin Square about 6 a.m. to get things set up for a sneak peek by WGN-TV, according to Assistant Public Works Director Patrick McAneny. A custom-built pair of stairs was built by Chris DeWall of the Public Works Department to increase safety as people entered and exited the larger of two pools.

The smaller pool was set up specifically for dogs, but human participants made use of it, too.

In remarks prior to the dip, Klehm thanked business sponsors, too. Aurelio's Pizza was on hand. Tito's Handmade Vodka provided adult beverages for those who wanted to give their hot chocolate a little kick. Pop's Popcorn, new to downtown Homewood, provided popcorn prizes for winners of the costume contest. The businesses donated their products to the event, Klehm said.

She also thanked the Homewood Science Center, which provided a warm place for the audience to gather for refreshments before and after the dip and for participants to change into dry clothing. 

Before the splashing began, there was a costume contest based on audience cheering. Four entries included Karen Cole as Puddles the Dog, Rhoda Gorbuscha as a reindeer with assistance from her little dog Pedro, Lizz Molina in her parrot costume and Heiferman as a snorkeler.

Cole too first place. Gorbuscha won second place. The prize for top fundraiser went to Molina.

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