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Cool cause

Portsmouth Herald - 2/4/2018

HAMPTON - The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom was filled with teenagers on Saturday, most dressed in crazy costumes, with a lot of glow and sparkle, outfits that would soon be wet and salty.

The ninth annual high school penguin plunge, the first of two days of brave people jumping into the Atlantic Ocean to benefit Special Olympics of New Hampshire was a huge success. A total of 370 high schools students and faculty from 24 high schools took the plunge, raising $129,672.

"The youth in New Hampshire are changing our culture, school by school," said Mary Conroy, president of Special Olympics NH. "The change is allowing people with disabilities to be a more integral part of the school community, in sports, in theater, all side by side as part of teams that include everyone. I think they will ultimately change the world because they understand the value of people who have differences and the expectations they have for everyone are high."

While each student did fundraisers, Conroy said the average amount raised per student was $350.

WMUR Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa has been with the Penguin Plunge since it began. He does more than host. He gets wet, taking the plunge on Saturday five times, with each "wave" of students. He will return on Sunday to take part in the 19th annual Penguin Plunge, an event open to all. Word has it Gov. Chris Sununu will take also the plunge Sunday.

Skarupa, wearing a T-shirt announcing himself as a weather geek, said the water was 40 degrees, warmer than the air. He advised the kids to get in, get wet and get out to warm up.

Rob Munson, school resource officer at Portsmouth High School, makes plunging a family affair. He and his son Isaac are veterans of the event. This year, Munson brought his daughter Whitney, a freshman at PHS to take her maiden plunge.

"He told me to run in as fast as I can and then to get out," Whitney said.

Brian Rogers, a PHS special education coordinator, organizes the PHS event. He was holding his 9-month old son Carter, assuring everyone that the baby would not be going into the ocean. Dad, however, did.

Dressing up and acting silly is part of the fun of the two days of the Penguin Plunge. A costume parade/contest preceded the plunge with Nashua South declared the winner. There was a two-way tie for second place, the award going to White Mountain High School and Alvirne High.

Leslie Reven, a staff member at Alvirne High School in Hudson, said they had 60 kids headed for the water.

"We are the number one fundraiser in the state," said Reven. "We have raised $22,000. This is an important event for us as we work hard to make sure all our programs, theater, art, and sports are completely unified. We have a group called WAATS (We are all the same) and we have peer students for each special need student. This will be my fourth year plunging."

Alvirne sophomore Lauren Loverdi said she does it simply because it's fun and something she does with her friends. Plus, it's for a great cause, she said.

Kelsey Richards is one of the unified students and said she is in her 13th year at the high school. Special education teacher Joanne Curry said the special education students can remain at Alvirne until they are 21.

"It's fun and really cold," Kelsey said. "Doing this makes me happy."


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