By Julie Huss
---- — Once again, human penguins will take to the waters at Hampton Beach and will be freezin’ for a reason.
The 14th annual Penguin Plunge to support New Hampshire Special Olympics will be held Feb. 3 at Hampton Beach. Hundreds of Special Olympics supporters are expected to make the mad dash across the frozen sand to plunge into the icy waves for a good cause.
This year’s Plunge theme is “Going to the Chapel.”
Members of Londonderry’s team Special Forces are some of many in the area gearing up for this year’s Plunge. Seven members are preparing for the frigid dip at the beach.
Lindsay Chase did her first plunge in 2008 and got others involved in the cause to raise money to support the town’s Special Olympics team, Special Forces.
“I thought it looked like a great organization,” Chase said. “I decided the next year I would get more people and, over the years, more and more have (gotten involved).”
Now, the Londonderry team is made up of local teachers and Special Olympics coaches raising money to support the community’s athletes.
Carla Cunningham said new members are always welcome to join Special Forces. She and teammate Julie Maloney coach the local Special Olympians in basketball, track and bowling. The local team includes more than 30 athletes ranging in age from 8 up through adulthood.
Taking the Penguin Plunge is a great way to support the Special Olympics and the home crowd.
“I’ve been coaching them and working with special needs kids,” Cunningham said. “I really enjoy it. We’re like a little family. We laugh, we cry.”
The town program is run by all volunteers and coaches.
Individual team members are asked to raise $350. The team as a whole hopes to raise several thousand more.
“Most of the money comes right back to support our team,” Kathy Horohoe said. “To me, it’s really worthwhile.”
Other Londonderry Special Forces team members taking the plunge Feb. 3 are Julie Maloney, Laura Dunn, Melissa Cote and Kaffa Cote.
Derry Recreation’s Timberwolves Special Olympics team will have support from Nicole Ferrante on Penguin Plunge day.
Ferrante will be making her fourth frolic into the Atlantic to support the local team.
“I have seen firsthand where the donations go,” she said.
Ferrante has helped coach the Derry team for about seven years. She said she will do anything to raise money and help support her local athletes.
The Timberwolves number anywhere from 30 to 40 adult athletes. They are now training for the upcoming regional Winter Games set for the weekend of Jan. 26.
Ferrante said she will head into the ocean and will stick with this year’s “Chapel” theme.
“I always go in with a costume,” she said. “It’s always really cold, too, especially when the shore is icy. I always wear shoes.”
Ferrante said the Special Olympics is an organization where so much good is done to bring joy and friendship to the athletes involved.
“It’s such a positive experience,” she said. “Their success is measured by how much fun they are having.”
Londonderry police Lt. Tim Jones is taking his fourth plunge as part of Team-U.
High school students will have their own chance to plunge on Feb. 2 at noon at Hampton Beach with the theme “Greek Olympics.”
To learn more about the Penguin Plunge or to support a local team, visit sonh.org.