Plunge Of The Penguins

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By Gina McGuinness

Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 7, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Hardy souls charge down Hampton Beach to take a dip in the ocean during the annual Penguin Plunge to benefit Special Olympics. [Photo by Andrew Moore]

HAMPTON -- Hampton Beach had many of the elements of a summer day. A crowd of noisy beach-goers, children and fun. The only difference was that it was February with a water temperature hovering at 41 degrees.

The seventh annual Penguin Plunge took place Sunday to benefit the Special Olympics. Little dogs were wearing sweaters, as children were all bundled up too. The festivities kicked off in front of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom with overcast skies and gusty wind.

About 700 people ran into the icy waves to help raise money for the Special Olympics. The Penguin Plunge is Special Olympics New Hampshire’s largest fund-raising event of the year, according to its president Mike Quinn. An estimated $400,000 was raised this year for the athletes of Special Olympics New Hampshire.

The water was rough, but that did not stop the plungers. Two police boats were being moved about the choppy water as they waited for the participants to jump in. Three police officers mounted on their horses were also on hand to help with crowd control.

The weather did not stop father and son, Joe and Justin Slattery of Pelham. This was their second year tackling the winter elements.

When asked why come out into the cold of February, they said, "it is for a great cause." Joe Slattery said his ritual starts about 10 minutes before the plunge. He starts to remove his sweats and any other warm clothing, until he is down to his bathing suit.

"This way here, it will not be a total shock to me, to be just standing here in my swimsuit when it comes time to dip in the water," Joe said.

Julie Mulry of Salem was watching for her group. Mulry said this was their third year and they chose this year to dress up as the "Johnny Damon Disciples." The four-person team donned long hair and New York Yankee shirts. During the costume contest, Mulry said they got booed.

The plunge took place at about 12:15 p.m., as friends and family gathered to watch the event.

"We are numb," said the Slattery father and son team. "We will be back, just not tomorrow."

Justin Slattery is training for the upcoming Boston Marathon in April.

Sherry Dionne and Sonny Donnelly, were asked why they make the decision to trade the warm comfort of home for the icy blast of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Not only is this a great cause, but this is our mid-winter cleanse," they answered.

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