What would prompt thousands of Minnesotans to don kooky costumes and jump into the frigid waters of Lake Calhoun?

An opportunity to help raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics.

About 15,000 people jumped at 16 Polar Plunges statewide this year. At the recent Minneapolis event, costumes ranged from tutus to prom wear to a group of 60 leprechauns, which included KMSP-TV (Channel 9) meteorologist Ian Leonard and his wife, Christy, who have been taking the plunge for five years.

Their jolly green-clad group raised almost $60,000 to support Special Olympic athlete Katie Timmer. The 37-year-old has been competing since age 8 in softball, swimming, bocce ball, floor hockey, bowling and golf. She won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze for swimming at the 1991 games. She is the female state swimming champ in her events, a skill that came in handy during the brisk dip into the lake.

As for Leonard, he's a big proponent of the plunge. "There's no diet, you don't have to train, you can wear a silly costume and everybody loves it," he said.

Now, if only you could earn a medal for it.

Sara Glassman • 612-673-7177