Oakwood Hills: Taking the plunge into Silver Lake on New Year’s Day

Health, mind benefits to a cold water dip, participants say

Five of the 20 people at Oakwood Hill's Silver Lake on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, for the third-annul New Year's Day Swim braved the icy water for just over three minutes.

There is more to deciding on jumping in a lake on a cold New Year’s Day than just wanting to try it, according to some of the 20 people who took that plunge in McHenry County on Monday.

For Nicole Fisher, a five-year cancer survivor, she wanted to see what the cold would do for her inflammation and body aches leftover from radiation treatments and surgeries.

“I can’t feel my feet,” said Fisher following the plunge into Silver Lake. She stayed in the frigid water to a count of five “and got my happy (self) back out,” Fisher said.

The Oakwood Hills community event was first proposed by Josie Shattuck in 2022, inviting residents to meet up at the community beach for a polar plunge. “It’s a mood lifter for sure,” Shattuck said of the cold water treatment. “There is a lot of benefit of cold therapy for someone when you are in recovery.”

Cold, it definitely was. The air temperature was a chilly 29 degrees as friends and neighbors waded into the 37.5-degree water to start 2024 off with a brisk noon dip.

“There is a lot of benefit of cold therapy for someone when you are in recovery.”

—  Josie Shattuck, organizer of Oakwood Hills' annual New Year's Day swim

Nicole Fisher’s husband, Tom Fisher, made it about 10 seconds longer than his wife. “It took my breath away,” Tom Fisher said. He got in the water deep enough to duck in up to his neck then beelined back to the shore.

It was the second year he’d participated, after a neighbor told him about it the morning of last year’s swim. With a cold snap in the last week of December 2022, the beach front was frozen a year ago. Those who wanted to go in had to chop a hole through the six inches of ice.

“We all went one at a time, and sat ‘bathtub style,’” that year, Tom Fisher said.

Tom Fisher also came prepared this year, dressed in his Chewbacca onesie pajamas. He quickly put them back on after getting out of the water.

And yes, he said, being in the frigid water does make one feel “a lot like Jack” - Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” character.

The third-annual event was a success as far as Shattuck was concerned. When she first first proposed an annual New Year’s Day swim via a Facebook event three years ago, a few people showed up on the tiny village’s beach. She was the only person who braved the water, however.

Then, a half-dozen people joined her last year - most getting out and back to shore quickly.

This time around, of the 20 people who plunged, Shattuck and four others braved the icy water for just over three minutes.

The plan is to keep the annual plunge going, she said, adding that anyone can come but warned there is limited parking at the private beach. She’s already created a Facebook event page for the 2025, 4th Annual New Year’s Day Swim.