Good cause fortifies Westport Penguin Plunge crowd against icy water
While other events might have been washed out by Saturday's stormy weather, one pursuit was buoyed by all the extra water.
The annual Penguin Plunge brought hundreds of brave cold-water waders to Compo Beach for a frigid foray into the icy brine. The event was one of six staged around the state to raise money for Special Olympics Connecticut.
"It was awesome," said Brooke Hadgraft of Newtown, still dripping from her plunge. Noting that she's not overly fond of cold weather, she added, "but to know you're doing something for a good cause, you just go."
"It was, to say the least, cold," said her father, Jeff Hadgraft, "but it was refreshing, I'll tell you that."
"Considering the weather, I think we have an outstanding turnout," said Gail Feinstein, volunteer coordinator, who added that the event traditionally raises close to $100,000. "We've had about 250 people register online and we always have a lot of walk-ins."
Each plunge participant is required to raise pledges for the cause of at least $100, but some teams collect thousands in pledges. "We have a lot of teams here," Feinstein said, including those from schools, colleges and fraternities from throughout the region.
"I personally did it last year, so I really had a great time doing it," said Chelsea Sousa, who was there with the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. "It's great to see so many people come out and support the same thing."
Two professional divers stood in the water off shore as a safety precaution. Because the tide was low, plungers had to walk venture a distance off the beachfront to fulfill their commitment to go underwater.
"I can't feel my toes," many people could be heard saying as they staggered back up the beach to their towels -- and warmth.
"It was cold!" said Victoria Lettiero, a student at Sacred Heart University. "I can't feel my feet."
Yet the motive to support a worthy cause helped keep hearts and spirits warm.
"I'm scared to death," she said prior to the plunge, "but I love the students and seeing their reaction. If it's going to put a smile on their faces and raise money for our team, then I'll jump in."