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Penguin Plunge brings out the brave and the bold

WINSTED — Eighty people took a dip into the icy waters of Highland Lake on Saturday, Feb. 4, in the ninth annual Penguin Plunge.The event raised money for Special Olympics Connecticut and is one of 10 Penguin Plunges the charity holds around the state.According to Sarah Bellerive, the special events coordinator for Special Olympics, the organization started the event 20 years ago and it is Special Olympics’ second largest fundraiser, behind the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run.Funds from the plunges go toward hiring trainers for the athletes who take part in Special Olympics events.This year was somewhat warmer than previous years, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees. Yet it was still cold enough to send participants running to the warming tent after they took the plunge.Participation was down from last year, when 119 people took part and raised $55,000. About $45,000 was raised this year, according to initial reports.However, people from all over the area appeared to have fun taking part, with many of them dressed in outlandish outfits.One group was dressed as characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” while another was dressed up as a football team with inflatable helmets.Town manager Dale Martin took the plunge in a psychedelic hippie-era outfit.“What’s my strategy? To get in and then get out!” Martin said.A similar strategy was taken by Maggie Hope, who came from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., just to take part in the event.“I’m just going to run in,” she said. “I have never done this before, but I’m doing this because I’m crazy.”

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