People defy winter’s might and take the plunge

Date: 2/5/2015

WESTFIELD – Despite the whipping wind and a temperature below 20 degrees, the area’s bravest took a leap at Hampton Ponds for the Amelia Park Children’s Museum’s Penguin Plunge on Jan. 31.

The 11th year of plunging saw around 100 participants, and though the final number of dollars raised has yet to be released, it is expected to fall near the $20,000 mark, according to the Amelia Park Children’s Museum Board of Directors President Diana McClean.

Last year’s 10th anniversary of the Penguin Plunge raised $25,000, the most in its history.

Sen. Don Humason and Rep. John Velis both waded into the cold waters, all in the name of fun and a good cause.

Carrie Callan, co-vice president of the Amelia Park Children’s Museum Board of Directors, who helped run the day’s events, said she was pleased to see another great turnout despite the cold, as she danced to keep warm.

“I love that so many people come out and support the museum,” Callan said. “It means so much.”

Before anyone ran or tip-toed into the water, City Council President Brian Sullivan declared Jan. 31st Rick Barry Day, in honor of the member of the Amelia Park Children’s Museum Board of Director who has made the plunge year after year. Barry, dressed in a neon T-shirt with a tropical print shirt over it, was one of the first to take the plunge.

Barry has raised thousands of dollars for the museum, and this year was no different. He said that now, after the event, he is still getting donations sent to him, including one for $131.15. Though Barry said he thought it was an oddly specific number, he soon realized it was in honor of his newly declared day.

So far, Barry has raised $4,133.15 this year for the Amelia Park Children’s Museum.

Participants and teams came out in full force and in full costume, including Dr. Evil and Mini Me, a hockey puck and Tom Brady and a deflated football.

Among the costumed were workers from the Maple Leave Inn in Westfield, who came dressed in full tropical wear, along with a few penguins.

Nick Galcenski is a loyal patron of the Maple Leaf, so when talk began about making a team, he did not hesitate to join. Though Galcenski said the anticipation of the plunge while waiting in the cold was difficult, it was ultimately for a great organization.

“We wanted to donate and volunteer for a good cause. We’re really doing it for the children,” Galcenski said.

The Maple Leaf team ended up doing exactly that. It raised more than $1,000 for the Amelia Park Children’s Museum.

Those clinging to their winter coats and those trying to dry off were able to warm up next to a bonfire and with some chili courtesy of the Westfield Fire Department. The firefighters were responsible for cutting through about a foot of ice on the pond before the event opened up.

Board member Jay Pagliuco and Nick Morganelli of CBS 3 Springfield served as the masters of ceremonies for the event.