This Party Had Phenomenal Ice-Breakers!

~ Jen Pepin

A crowd of scantily and vibrantly dressed individuals holding hands and running into the ocean in the middle of February is bound to grab your attention. These people are actually “freezin’ for a reason” and take the plunge across America to support the Special Olympics. In New Hampshire, these annual “Penguin Plunges” are a longtime tradition and have historically been the biggest fundraiser for Special Olympics of New Hampshire (SONH), raising up to $400,000 annually. Results from last weekend’s plunge are still trickling in, but at last count, 487 New Hampshire residents took to the frigid ocean, lakes, and rivers to raise $457,574. This represents over 96% of the goal for 2022!

Before COVID, plunges at major bodies of water such as Hampton Beach or Lake Winnipesaukee would feature hundreds of participants, food, entertainment, vendors, kids’ activities, and more. Fortunately, the fund-raising has continued, but in order to accommodate covid restrictions, plunging has become an independent DIY event. Last weekend, we witnessed Nelson’s Katharine Schillemat and her friends from Keene brave a small area of open water on Granite Lake. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 12, the thermometer read 23 degrees F, and although the sun was out, a relentless stiff wind blew across the frozen ice. Near the outlet of the lake, this small group of brave souls stood in the snow wearing bathing suits and towels. They wasted no time, and fearlessly maneuvered themselves into the frigid rushing water. It was over in a matter of minutes, but Kathy was able to contribute over $600 to SONH!

The mission of Special Olympics New Hampshire is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. If you’d be interested in taking the plunge next year, or would like to find out more, please visit