Some plunges still on for New Year’s Day despite frigid temperatures

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite the frigid cold temperatures, thousands of Rhode Islanders will take to the ocean New Year’s Day to participate in the “Penguin Plunge.”

Special Olympics Rhode Island’s 42nd annual penguin plunge and the van of supplies is already packed and ready to go.

“For thousands of Rhode Islanders, this is how they start their new year, this is a tradition,” Director of Development for Special Olympics R.I. Tracy Garabedian said.

Garabedian has been organizing the event for nine years. Given the temperatures on Monday could feel like below 0 degrees with windchill, she says conversations were had about whether or not to cancel the plunge.

Ultimately, they decided it was a go.

“The bottom line is our plungers are so dedicated they’re gonna show up regardless,” she said.

Other plunges in the area have also taken the temperatures into consideration. Newport’s Polar Bear Plunge is also still on, along with the Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge and the West Bay YMCA Plunge. Fall River’s plunge has been postponed to another date when the temperatures are a little warmer.

“Safety is our number one priority, so whether it’s 50 degrees or 5 degrees, we have the cold water team,” Garabedian said.

With the dangerous temperatures, safety will be even more of a focus this year. In addition to the cold water team, there will be an ambulance, other medical personnel, warming tents and extra warming blankets.

“Everything that we’ve always done just doing it a little bit extra,” Garabedian said.

On a good year, Garabedian says there are about 1,000 participants. Last year more than $130,000 was raised. She expects the numbers to dip with the temperatures this year but still expects a good showing.

“It’s the most dedicated, wonderful people who support Special Olympics and nothings gonna stop them,” she said.

The new year will mark the organization’s 50th anniversary, so they hope to get it off to a strong start with the Penguin Plunge.