From foxes in socks to cats in hats, 300 participants took an icy dip at the Penguin Plunge at Whitefish’s City Beach on Saturday.
Participants waited in line for their turn to dive into the near-freezing water, and together with their supporters, helped raise more than $51,000 to benefit Special Olympics Montana.
While anxious jumpers continuously questioned themselves as they approached the hole cut into the ice on Whitefish Lake, most came out of the water quickly but smiling.
“It was fun,” said first-time plunger Katie Zink. “I’m definitely doing it again next year.”
The 10-year-old raised $1,000 by herself, and her team, Foxes in Soxes, raised more than $5,000. Zink helps tutor special-needs students at her school in Marion, and she said she wanted to continue helping them through this event.
Other participants included the returning North Valley Common Cold team representing the North Valley Hospital. The team, led by fourth-year plunger Shane Foster was clad in scrubs as they made the jump.
“Health is achieved by accomplishment and athletics,” Foster said. “We want to promote a healthy lifestyle for everyone.”
Foster and his team did that by taking the plunge into water officials estimated to be around 34 degrees.
Many of the teams and participants dressed up in wild costumes complete with face paint and props, while others took the dive wearing next to nothing.
Several jumpers squealed as their feet touched the plunge platform, but all made it out of the water safely, if not a little out of breath, with the help of the floaters and divers standing by in case of emergency.
“This is Montana,” said diver Brian ‘B.J.’ Johnson. “It’s not cold. It’s refreshing.”
This was Johnson’s 10th year as a diver for the event. This year, he and his team had to remove 20 inches of solid ice to create the hole for the plunge, according to event official Eric Schmidt.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.