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Plunge into the Amelia Park Children's Museum

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD For many people their bucket list -- the list of everything they want to do before they "kick the bucket" -- consists of trips to exotic locations, daredevil stunts or to write a best selling novel. However, few have listed their burning desire to plunge into the subzero Congamond Lake to raise funds to open the new Amelia Park Children's Museum.

On Jan. 26 the Fourth Annual Penguin Plunge will take place at the Cove Banquet Facility (formally known as The Brass Rail) in Southwick. Anyone who has raised $50 or more for the museum's operating costs will have the opportunity to have their own unique plunge.

Having raised approximately $20,000 throughout their fall and winter fundraisers the museum is coming closer to reaching their goal of opening their new location on South Broad Street. However, additional funds for operating costs and exhibits have not been acquired only allowing the museum to be open for birthday and private parties.

Twenty percent of the interactive exhibits have been installed and $626,000 of the $750,000 needed for the new exhibitions has been raised. Exhibits scheduled for the new facility include a live animal touch tank, a music exhibit, the Big Y exhibit, a hospital, a bank and a post office. Each exhibit allows interactive play where children can lean about and touch wildlife, play instruments, grocery shop and play doctor or postmaster.

Molly Watson, vice president of the Board of Directors of the Amelia Park Children's Museum, said the board is hoping to have the museum open for regular hours within several months if their fundraising efforts remain on target. She added that the Penguin Plunge is one of the highlights of their annual fundraising campaign as the number of participants doubles each year.

One of the 120 plungers and recipient of last year's prize for best costume, Harry Wandeloski said he never grows tired of the plungers' camaraderie and their willingness to freeze themselves for such a noble cause.

"I'm really looking forward to this year's Penguin Plunge," he said. "I'm hoping for some thick ice and a beautiful sunny day. It will be hard to top last year's costume ballerina but I'm going to try."

Wandeloski and fellow plunger Rep. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, said they are looking to top their 2007 fundraising efforts. Humason, who annually raises several hundred dollars, emphasized the importance of the Amelia Park Children's Museum within the Westfield community. He added that the museum offers children valuable interactive learning and a place for his future children to learn and play.

Watson said the Penguin Plunge provides families with a unique activity as well as exposure to those involved with the museum. Prizes are awarded for the plunger who raises the largest amount of funds as well as the plunger with the best costume. Music, children's activities, beverages and food will be available at the event.

In-person registration for the Penguin Plunge will be on Jan. 25 at the museum's new location at 29 South Broad St. from 6 to 8 p.m. In the event of inclement weather the plunge will be rescheduled for Feb. 2.

For more information about the Penguin Plunge, registration forms or for information about the Amelia Park Children's Museum go to their Web site at