Getting Wet & Icy Cold for the Special Olympic

© 2009 Gordon Alexander

Posted 02.23.09

NEWPORT, VT | Some 300 heavily clad spectators watched nearly 200 Penguin plungers from all over New England and Canada dive into the frigid waters of Lake Memphremagog in mid-February during the 8th annual Penguin Plunge here.

Local firefighters in wet suits stood by to make sure non of the plungers got in to trouble in the 22 degree water.

Wave after wave of plungers, some in costumes, some in bathing suits, and some in sweat pants walked, dove, and ran into hole chopped into the ice. Some went back for second, none seem to object to the cold.

Mobile emergency medical mobile units were parked on shore -- just in case.

Some of the plungers wielded toilet plungers which got a few smiles from the spectators.

Around the corner of the Gateway pavilion there were men's and women's warming stations with hot drinks and warm, dry clothing waiting. On the shore volunteers handed out towels to each bather.

Peg Parks and Lissa Gebo from Addison, Vermont, had just participated in Burlington's Penguin plunge got wet again in Newport's event.

"We have been involved in all the Penguin Plunges in Vermont for about eight year's now," Peg said. "We wouldn't miss it for the world,"

The first Penguin Plunge took place in 1996 and raised $2000. Recent Vermont Special Olympic Penguin Plunge fundraisers have raised in excess of $175,000,

Special Olympics Vermont provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Event prizes included:

    The Peerless Penguin
    The individual who raises the largest amount of money will receive a Ski and Stay package courtesy of Jay Peak Resort.

    The Pack of Plungers Prize
    The pack consisting of the highest number of Plungers will receive the Pack of Plungers trophy, to be displayed at the place of their choice for one year.

    The Plumage Award
    The most creatively dressed Penguin will receive two one-day lift tickets courtesy of Jay Peak Resort.

In order to participate in the event entrants must have raised at least $100 (the $25 registration fee plus a minimum of $75). Students had to raise $25 (plus $25 registration fee.)

The exact amount raised this year was not conclusive and would be available at a later date according to a representative from Special Olympics. According to this representative who identified himself as "Holmes" some $11 thousand dollars has been raised so far through the various Penguin Plunger events.

Since The Plunge was a Valentine’s Day event, the flyer suggested: &quiot;Jump into the icy water...then snuggle with a sweetheart."

Copyright © 2009 Gordon Alexander/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.09