‘Penguins’ take a cold plunge in lake

By Jessica Ciparelli - ReminderNews
Ellington - posted Thu., Mar. 17, 2011
South Windsor Police Department Agent Ron Littell (center) sprints out of the water with the first group of 'Penguin Plunge' participants to hit the icy waters of Crystal Lake on March 12. Photos by Jessica Ciparelli.
South Windsor Police Department Agent Ron Littell (center) sprints out of the water with the first group of 'Penguin Plunge' participants to hit the icy waters of Crystal Lake on March 12. Photos by Jessica Ciparelli.

Nine-year-old Ryan, of Vernon, had been preparing for the dip into the frigid waters of Crystal Lake in Ellington for two weeks prior to the fourth annual Special Olympics Penguin Plunge. He had been taking ice-cold showers to see how long he could stand it, said his mother, Jackie. But despite his training, Ryan - who raised $50 to plunge into the 36-degree water - still had one word to describe his plunging experience.

“COLD!” he said.

Ryan, along with approximately 120 other “plungers,” raised more than $25,000 for Special Olympics – Connecticut Eastern Region on March 12. Residents of Ellington, South Windsor, East Hartford, Rocky Hill, Coventry, Enfield, Hebron, Andover and Marlborough all participated.

“These people are amazing – I’m not even jumping in the water,” said Stacey Puiia, of South Windsor, whose son Brendan, 13, is a Special Olympics athlete. “They really care about our kids – they don't do it for recognition.”

First-timer Brenda Copithorne of Tolland waited anxiously with her Penguin Wannabes team, which consisted of members from South Windsor, East Hartford, Bolton, Willimantic, Manchester and Tolland.

“It's the maiden voyage,” said Copithorne. “I just hope it's not the Titanic.”

“Why? It's only 36 degrees in there,” joked Wendy Judge, of Ellington, whose daughter participates in Special Olympics.

Amber Rausch of Enfield wasn't fazed by the chilly air. She was walking around in her bathing suit and Saint Patrick's Day garb. It was her first time plunging, but she wasn't nervous.

“I used to go to Rocky Neck in April and wonder why no one else would jump in with me,” she said. “I've got to get used to the air, so the water won't be a shock.”

Roseanne Sapula, of South Windsor, this year's winner of the “Emperor Penguin Award” for the highest individual fundraiser, said her team, the Penguin Wannabes, spanned nearly 50 years, but came together for a common cause.

“The youngest we have is 13 and the oldest is 62, and to have 49 years of age [span] is no difference at all. We're all ‘Freezin’ for a reason.’”


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