Students take the dive into freezing cold waters

It was 28 degrees Fahrenheit at the Burlington waterfront at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning and thousands of people were jumping into the freezing lake. The participants and bystanders who gathered around the waterfront were a part of the Penguin Plunge, an event to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont. The Plunge is Special Olympics Vermont’s largest annual fundraiser, according to the event’s website. Children as young as 8 and adults as old as 60 gather to take part. Participants took the plunge in teams. The largest team at the event was the Champlain Elementary School, with 63 plungers, according to the announcer at the event. Some teams dressed to impress for the event. A team of Starbucks baristas wore their aprons to jump into the water. Others dressed as ancient Romans. There was even a woman dressed as a lobster. Kappa Sigma fraternity members, sophomore Phil Foerster and senior Peter Andriakos, dressed in a beach theme and brought a plastic palm tree with them. “It was really exciting,” Foerster said. “With the music and the people cheering you on, it made it easier to jump.” Foerster said that despite the encouragement, the plunge was still intense. “When you hit the water, your body sort of goes into shock,” Foerster said. “You can’t even think anymore.” Junior Riley Hoke participated in the event with some of his friends from the Emergency Services group in Living/Learning. “I was really cold,” Hoke said. “But I’d do it again.” Hoke said that he enjoyed the experience, but that the process leading up to the plunge was hectic. “The whole process was pretty confusing,” Hoke said. “There were lots of people just shouting numbers.” Participants went from the registration tent to the changing or “staging” tent, plunged into the icy Lake Champlain waters, then went back to the changing tent, Hoke said. The 15-year-old event raised more than $360,000 for Special Olympics last year and hopes to raise more this year, according to the website.