By Julie Huss
---- — Once again, brave souls will take to the waters at Hampton Beach this weekend to support New Hampshire Special Olympics.
The 15th annual Penguin Plunge is Feb. 2. Hundreds of Special Olympics supporters are expected to make the mad dash across the frozen sand to plunge into the icy waves to raise money and awareness. The annual event is also one of the “603 Reasons” why New Hampshire is special.
Participants will get support from family, friends, business associates and others to raise a minimum of $350 for the Penguin Plunge.
High school teams have their own Plunge on Feb. 1, also at Hampton Beach. High school students must raise an individual goal of $100.
This year’s Plunge theme is “Zombies.” High school participants will enjoy the theme “School Spirit.”
Derry Recreation’s Timberwolves Special Olympics team will have support from Nicole Ferrante.
Ferrante will be making her fifth frolic into the Atlantic to support the local team. She has seen firsthand how important the Special Olympics funding is as she has coached the local athletes for seven years.
The Timberwolves number anywhere from 30 to 40 adult athletes. They are now training for an annual winter competition that’s coming up at Waterville Valley.
Ferrante said she will head into the ocean this year accompanied by one of her Timberwolves athletes. Parent supporters also sign up to take the plunge.
She said dressing up as part of the annual Plunge theme is an added fun.
“I’m looking ahead,” she said. “I’ve already created a penguin costume and I now have to add my extra zombie creations.”
Linda Shumway of Derry will take her second plunge this weekend.
She said last year’s event was pretty cold, but the party atmosphere at the beach kept everyone going for the few minutes they were actually in the water.
“You go out, you get wet,” Shumway said. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
She said many people get into the costume theme in a big way. She said she will mostly do the Zombie theme with her face makeup and hairstyle.
Londonderry will be represented once again with a team representing Matthew Thornton Elementary School, Moose Hill School and the community.
The Londonderry Special Forces team has 12 members. Team leader Lindsay Ross is an educator at Matthew Thornton and will make her seventh plunge. The team includes athletes, coaches, family members and other school staff.
“This year, we have several returning who continue to raise money and awareness of Special Olympics,” Ross said. “And I think this will be coldest temperatures to date, thanks to that polar vortex.”
Returning team members in addition to Ross include Kaffa Cote, Melissa Cote, Carla Cunningham, Laura Dunn, Kathy Horohoe, Julie Maloney, Mary McQueeney and Penny Webster.
Three new “plungers” on the team are Jarad Cote, Brandon Rugg and Doreen Stubbs.
“We are always looking to expand our team,” Ross said. “We always welcome any new penguins to our flock.”
Ross said past plunges have generated revenue for Londonderry’s Special Forces Special Olympics athletes. Since 2007, the Special Forces Penguin Plunge team has raised more than $35,000 for Special Olympics.
The group has raised $5,100 so far this year.
Londonderry High School will be represented at the beach this weekend, too.
Londonderry police Lt. Tim Jones will also be making another appearance at the beach.
“This will be my fifth plunge,” he said. “But I am not thrilled about the weather forecast.”
Ross said it’s all about helping the athletes.
“Our team this year is filled with amazing individuals who will be braving the waters all for the love of the athletes and the Special Olympics organization,” she said.
To learn more about the Penguin Plunge or to support a local team, visit sonh.org.