Penguin Plunge raises $528,000

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Two events outdo last year's total funds, despite economy

By Dave Choate and Tara Johnson

Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 3, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Miss Hampton Beach, Lacy Jane Folger of Farmington, poses for pictures before taking the plunge at the 10th Anniversary Penguin Plunge at Hampton Beach in Hampton, N.H., Sunday Feb. 1, 2009.
[Cheryl Senter photo]

HAMPTON BEACH -- They came, they gave, they plunged.

The 10th annual Penguin Plunge brought 670 charitable souls and cold water enthusiasts from all over to Hampton Beach clad in swimsuits, costumes and capes to raise money for Special Olympics New Hampshire. With a Mardi Gras theme and plenty of brightly colored strands of beads to go around, the mood was festive for the three waves of people who walked, ran and hopped their way through their plunges. Most spoke of wanting to support Special Olympics New Hampshire, which had raised $528,000 by the end of the day.

"It was a great weekend for Special Olympics," said group vice president Mary Conway, who thanked the town of Hampton and event sponsors. "It was a nice collaboration of a lot of people."

At the first annual High School Penguin Plunge on Saturday, Conway said 163 students and staff from 22 schools took part and raised $37,000. Combined with Sunday's total, Special Olympics New Hampshire actually brought in more plungers and money than last year, despite reduced expectations due to the economy.

Many who came were longtime plungers who continued to support Special Olympics. City Councilor Nancy Novelline Clayburgh was at the plunge with her son, Michael, who competes in the Special Olympics in skiing, basketball, track and field and a host of other events.

"We are avid participants that support Special Olympics," Clayburgh said. "It is such a wonderful organization."

Then there were newcomers like Michael Norcross of Exeter, who was dressed head to toe in a Spider-Man costume and initially told the Herald his name was Peter Parker. Norcross said from under his mask that he had just heard about the plunge Saturday on the radio, used his credit card to make a donation and came to Hampton to take part.

"You need a superhero around, just in case," Norcross said.

When asked how cold the water was, Norcross gave a superhero's answer.

"I could be swimming in it right now," he said. "It was cozy."

Other first timers were a little more shocked by the cold water, which was reported at the event to be a hair under 40 degrees.

"The water was a lot colder than I thought," said Olivia Rowell of Eliot, Maine.

Even the hundreds of spectators had fun watching friends, co-workers and family members take the plunge. Gary and Edie Pole of Hampton make donations yearly and come to cheer on friends, Gary said, but he said he hadn't taken the plunge before.

"No, no, no," he said, laughing. "We come down and support them."

Afterwards, swimmers headed inside the Casino Ballroom for clam chowder, soda and live music. Special Olympics New Hampshire president Mike Quinn said he felt the event, which spreads funds to state and local Special Olympics groups, was a success thanks to volunteers and plungers, including New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and personalities from WMUR and WOKQ.

"This is vitally important to us," Quinn said. "It's unique and challenging ... it's for a good cause."

For information on Special Olympics New Hampshire, visit
Despite the intense cold, participants in the 10th annual
Penguin Plunge at Hampton Beach seem to enjoy themselves.
Plungers make a hasty retreat from the frigid water
Sunday at Hampton Beach.
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