Taking the Penguin Plunge

Champlain waterfront on Sat, Feb. 10, hundreds of spectators waited in anticipation to watch one of the most awaited events of the winter – The Penguin Plunge. The ice had been cut through to let people swim, and four fire rescue men stood at the ready as group upon group ran into the freezing cold lake for charity. Every year, teams raise money for the Vermont Special Olympics by being sponsored to jump into Lake Champlain in the middle of Feb. University of Vermont students joined as “Team Catamount” this year, raising over $7,000 and coming in second place for raising the most money. They hope next year to have an even bigger array of students, faculty members, staff members and clubs. This year, with over 40 teams participating in the event, and with about 20 people on each team, there was no end to the entertainment. The first group, clad in tropical swimwear, ran down into the water, paying little attention to the icy wind whip-ping at their faces. Whether they were screaming out of fun or out of shock, no one knew, but the wide eyed, open mouthed faces were priceless. The Beach Boys played ironically in the background over the crowd as the second group splashed into the water, clad in matching orange t-shirts. They were out of the water as quickly as they had gotten in. Group after group braved the ice cold water, some individuals swimming all the way to the edge of the ice, wide smiles plastered on their faces. “They’re crazy!” one spectator was overheard saying as another group of people splashed into the water. Two women dressed as old ladies wadded in with canes and wigs, sprinting back out of the water as soon as they had dunked. The Rugby Team refused to run in and instead marched in as a group, singing a viking chant until the water was up to their necks. People from the age of seven through 70 ran into the freezing water. Little kids held each others’ hands as they went in, and one gentleman climbed onto the ice, and did a cannonball back into the water. As more and more people took the plunge, the audience became even more impressed. The song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley came on over the speakers. For UVM student Danielle L’Esperance. It was her second time taking part in the event. After taking the plunge, she was all smiles. “It’s a unifying experience,” she said. “It feels really good to give back.” There were many first timers as well. Sam Coleman, a teacher, said jumping into Lake Champlain was “like jumping into a glass of ice wa-ter,” but that he’d definitley do it again. At the end of the event not only had the event raised thousands of dollars for charity, but many commented that they had a lot of fun watching and participating. Even if the plungers walked away with a cold, they also walked away with bragging rights.