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‘Penguins’ ready to take the plunge

Participants in a past Penguin Plunge take to the water — which their facial expressions suggest is cold –  to raise funds for the Amelia Park Children’s Museum. (File Photo)

Event benefits Amelia Park Children’s Museum

WESTFIELD –  The Penguin Plunge is turning “Sweet Sixteen” this year and celebrating with — what else – a dip in the icy cold waters at Hampton Ponds.

The 16th Annual Penguin Plunge to benefit Amelia Park Children’s Museum is Jan. 25 at 1 p.m. at Hampton Ponds.

The event draws participants from the greater Westfield area who are brave enough to get chilly for a good cause.

Longtime museum supporter Rick Barry is making his fifteenth plunge Saturday. Barry is the perennial highest fundraiser, which has earned him the Excelsior Award, an honor he hopes to receive again this year. The Award comes with the glory of raising the most funds, as well as $500 cash, which Barry has historically donated back to the museum.

When asked why he takes the plunge each year, Barry offered a lighthearted response: “Well I keep asking myself why I continue to do it too,” he joked.

On a serious note, Barry said supporting the Amelia Park Children’s Museum is a cause he cares about, and the Penguin Plunge brings awareness to all the museum has to offer local families. And, he said, it’s actually a good time.

“First of all, it’s fun and it helps out our community,” he said. “The funds raised go to our operating cost, our community outreach programs — so basically help keep our doors open.”

The participants, known as “penguins” or “plungers,” pledge to raise at least $75 for the museum before diving, wading or tip-toe-ing through the water. The Westfield Fire Department breaks through any ice on the surface to create a horseshoe shaped track for plungers to traverse. At the halfway mark, the penguins may ring a bell to signify their accomplishment. Warming tents await participants on the beach and Westfield firefighters sell their locally-famous chili.

Spectators are encouraged to watch from the beach and cheer for the plungers, who are announced as they walk the runway into the water. Anyone wishing to take the plunge can register starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Spectators are welcome at noon and the Penguin Plunge begins at 1 p.m.

A costume contest is part of the fun, with this year’s theme being “Sweet Sixteen.”

The 2020 Penguin Plunge sponsors are Westfield Gas & Electric and Whip City Fiber, Reminder Publishing and Forish Construction.

Amelia Park Children’s Museum, 29 South Broad St., is open Thursday – Monday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and offers numerous exhibits and special programs, as well as party space.


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