With a countdown from 10, a mass of people swarmed into the frigid water off Misquamicut Beach Thursday before quickly sprinting back out. Conditions were bright and sunny for the noontime Penguin Plunge, but strong winds made it feel colder than 35 degrees. Anna Lewis of Westerly was among the roughly 200 people welcoming the New Year by jumping in the water.
"It was awesome," Lewis said. "I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I love the water, rush of the capillaries, great way to bring in the New Year. Any excuse to go in the ocean."
The Misquamicut Penguin Plunge was expected to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 for Westerly Area Rest Meals, a program to help needy people.
“We run multiple programs throughtout the year for shelter, community meal site, community critical needs, and this allows us to be able to serve people who are really struggling out in the community,” said WARM's executive director Russ Patridge.
Close to 200 people joined Patridge in taking making the plunge. He said it’s the seventh time he’s taken the New Year's dip, and that having freezing cold feet afterward is the toughest part.
About a half-dozen similar New Year’s benefits were held in other communities around the state.