On Sunday morning, Jan. 31, 2016, groups representing West Hartford Public Schools plunged into Dunning Lake at Winding Trails Recreation Center in Farmington in support of Special Olympics of Connecticut.
By Ronni Newton
The weather may have been unseasonably warm for late January, but most people would not consider the 39-degree air temperature warm enough to plunge into 34-degree water if not for a really good reason.
Special Olympics Connecticut provided that reason.
On Sunday morning, approximately 200 people gleefully plunged into the icy waters of Dunning Lake at Winding Trails in Farmington – shrieking a bit as they hit the water – as part of the Penguin Plunge, one of Special Olympics Connecticut’s signature fundraisers.
The participants included eight members of Conard High School’s student council, as well as Principal Julio Duarte. The Conard team of Brian Wilson, Jack Alissi, Colleen Shulken, Matt Lee, Rosemary O’Rourke, Julia Hook,Mamta Malla, and Jordan Fongemie raised $1,000.
Five members of King Philip Middle School’s social service club also represented West Hartford Public Schools at the Plunge.
“This was a great way to raise money and awareness for an organization that does a ton of great things for the community,” said Lee, a Conard sennior.
Wilson and Malla, co-presidents of the Conard student council, also plunged into the frigid water. “For me, being part of the student council at Conard means giving back to the community in any way possible. This was a great way to do that,” Wilson said.
The Penguin Plunge at Winding Trails was originally scheduled for Jan. 24, but postponed for a week due to last weekend’s snow. Although Sunday’s weather was sunny and the temperatures were above average, none of the participants wanted to stay in the lake for very long.
“My feet are numb, but this is a wonderful way to show our support for Special Olympics and the good they do,” said Schulken.
Principal Duarte was a willing participant, and pleased that the Conard student council was as well. “Events like this really bring the kids and the community together in a good way,” he said. “However, none of them have permission to miss school tomorrow,” he added.
According to the Special Olympics Connecticut website, the Penguin Plunge is the organization’s largest grassroots fundraiser. In addition to Sunday’s event at Winding Trails, Penguin Plunges are held from January through March at four other Connecticut lakes and beaches.
According to the website, participation in the Penguin Plunge “provides funding to support over 13,000 athletes who participate in Special Olympics Connecticut’s year-round training and competition in 27 sports. Costumes are encouraged – we even give an award for the best costumes! Many Penguins form teams to band together and share in this one-of-a-kind experience.”
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