Daredevils Return Feb. 2 for Icy Plunge


WINSTED — Residents of the Winchester-Torrington area are teaming up with Special Olympics Connecticut for the fifth annual Penguin Plunge, in which brave adrenaline addicts will jump into the freezing waters at Highland Lake to benefit Special Olympics programs.

The plunge will take place Saturday, Feb. 2, at noon, with registration starting at 9:30 a.m.

Former Selectman Jay Case, now a regional director of development for Special Olympics Connecticut, said Monday the Winsted plunge is one of eight throughout the state and that the Highland Lake event is fourth-best in fundraising. Last year the event raised $67,000 and this year's goal is $80,000.

"This year Special Olympics Connecticut was able to send three athletes to Shanghai, China, for the International World Games and all three were from the Northwest Corner," Case said at Monday's Board of Selectmen's meeting. "We're very proud of our atheletes, we're proud of what we do and the funds we raise with these different events is how we're able to this."

Case noted there are 33 Special Olympians from Winsted and 64 in Torrington, with approximately 5,500 athletes statewide who participate in the Special Olympics.

Case was joined by Special Olympics Connecticut Regional Director Steve DeWitte, Special Olympian Julie Cavanaugh and mascot Courtney the Penguin in announcing this year's Winsted plunge.

"This town has been so super to our cause," DeWitte said. "We have over 100 athletes in this area. This is a tremendous effort with tremendous support from everyone in this community."

This year's plunge at Highland Lake will include a few new twists, including an array of new award categories, use of the state boat launch as a staging area and new heated tents for plungers. Case said the Highland Lake Watershed Association is working with state officials to build new fencing at the boat launch and make the area more attractive to boaters and beach-goers.

Also new this year will be a pre-event Kiddie Plunge at the Northwest YMCA on Main Street, where children will be welcomed to jump into the pool at the facility as a ceremonial kickoff. That event is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m.

DeWitte thanked a number of businesses for their support of the Winsted plunge, including Supreme Industries of Harwinton, SCASCO Energy, the Winsted Rotary Club, Salisbury Bank & Trust, Sharon Hospital, 97.3 WZBG FM, Northwest Community Bank, the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, the Winsted Fire Department, the Winsted Police Department, Torrington Explorers, Winsted Ambulance Association and State Police Dive Team.

For more information on the Winsted Penguin Plunges and others throughout the state, visit soct.org and click on "Penguin Plunges." Special Olympics Connecticut can also be reached by phone at 877-464-0006.

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