Several Penguin Plunge teams came armed with dance moves for the 2009 Penguin Plunge. Land Title Guarantee Co. participants were, from left, Bruce Carta, Lisa Kanov, Jed Gibson, Melissa Gibson, Stan Urban and Jean Urban. The team won the best costume award. The seventh annual Penguin Plunge is at noon March 27 at Lake Catamount.

Photo by Zach Fridell

Several Penguin Plunge teams came armed with dance moves for the 2009 Penguin Plunge. Land Title Guarantee Co. participants were, from left, Bruce Carta, Lisa Kanov, Jed Gibson, Melissa Gibson, Stan Urban and Jean Urban. The team won the best costume award. The seventh annual Penguin Plunge is at noon March 27 at Lake Catamount.

Prepping for the Plunge fundraiser

Registration for chilly event is due March 15

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Penguin Plunge 2009

Watch as people take a dip in the 32 degree water

Watch as people take a dip in the 32 degree water

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Courtesy photo

The Hot Flashes jumped in 2009 in their trademark red outfits. From left, John Aragon, Debbie Aragon and Christine McKelvie led the pack.

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Courtesy photo

Representatives from Starbucks dressed as ninjas for the 2009 Penguin Plunge. The seventh annual event is at noon March 27. Registration for jumpers is due March 15.

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Courtesy photo

Representatives of Steamboat Springs High School dug up some old basketball uniforms for their dip in the 2009 Penguin Plunge. Team costumes and skits are encouraged at the annual fundraiser to purchase new equipment for Yampa Valley Medical Center.

If you go

The seventh annual Penguin Plunge is at noon March 27 at the Lake Catamount pool. Registration is due March 15. Each penguin must raise $125 to participate. The event is free to watch. To register, call the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley at 871-2515, e-mail penguinplunge@yvm... or stop by the Healthcare Foundation office at 385 Anglers Drive, Suite B.

Donations can be mailed to Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley, P.O. Box 883415, Steamboat Springs 80488. It’s also possible to

register and donate online at www.first

giving.com/34030.

A Penguin Plunge Dance Party is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. March 26 at Ghost Ranch Saloon. Tickets are $15 in advance and are available at the Yampa Valley Medical Center front desk, the Healthcare Foundation office, Alpine Bank or Holmquist-Lorenz Construction Co. Tickets will be $20 at the door.

On a Saturday afternoon in late March for the past six years, vikings, pirates, ninjas, the Village People and other costumed adventurers have steadied themselves on the side of the Lake Catamount pool, taken a deep breath and jumped into freezing water.

They’ve done swan dives, cannonballs and epic team jumps into the 32-degree water before racing to the other end of the pool. Now in its seventh year, the annual Penguin Plunge is “Steamboat’s crazy, fun rite of spring,” six-time jumper and Yampa Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said.

The seventh annual event is at noon March 27 at Lake Catamount. The deadline for team and sponsor registration is March 15. Teams have until the day of the event to raise money; each team member must raise at least $125.

Penguin Plunge is put on by the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley, a private, nonprofit organization that raises funds for health care services at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Since 2004, the Healthcare Foundation has used Penguin Plunge to raise money for a specific equipment request each year. The first project was a human patient simulator for YVMC’s emergency services department. Proceeds also have helped purchase digital mammography equipment, vital sign monitoring equipment and other upgrades.

For this year’s effort, a challenge grant from an anonymous donor offers $2 for every $1 raised above the 2009 event’s $58,000 net proceeds, said Traci Day-Fenton, director of development and special events for the Healthcare Foundation. To help get above last year’s mark, event organizers are trying to cut event costs wherever possible to increase the net pull, Day-Fenton said. There’s also an increase in the minimum amount to participate — to $125 from $100.

All the money raised will go toward the purchase of a new CT scanner for YVMC. Used in a variety of diagnostic tests, the scanner would cost about $1.7 million. Day-Fenton hopes to raise $88,000 through Penguin Plunge — up from $70,000 in dollars raised in 2009.

The diagnostic tool is important for numerous uses and “is at the heart of our diagnostic imaging department,” McKelvie said. Among those uses are a variety of cardiac screenings.

“Like anybody else, we want to stay up with the times. We want to constantly upgrade equipment at the hospital,” Day-Fenton said.

Costumes encouraged

A trend that started with grass skirts in the Plunge’s first year has grown to include full-blown, group-oriented costumes and skits.

Teams from local businesses and community groups have been known to keep their themes secret until the last possible second before their icy plunge, Day-Fenton said. Land Title Guarantee Co. upped the game in 2007 with an elaborate “Wizard of Oz” theme and skit, McKelvie said. Since then almost every team has been motivated to jump in costume.

“Without giving anything away, because I am sworn to secrecy with some of the teams, Michael Jackson will be present … and we might see balloon boy,” Day-Fenton said.

The penguin pool grew in 2009 to include almost 150 jumpers, and event organizers would like to see that number continue to rise, Day-Fenton said.

In the days leading up to the event, workers will cut a swimming lane out of the 3 feet or so of ice covering the Lake Catamount pool. After taking the icy dip, jumpers have a clear lane to Catamount’s large hot tub. A few minutes in the warm water erases the shock of the jump and gives a temperature buffer to watch the rest of the event poolside, McKelvie said.

“I think people really get hooked on this event,” she said.

A kickoff party from 4:30 to 7 p.m. March 26 is new to Penguin Plunge. A dance competition where participants vote for their favorite dance partner and screenings of highlights from past plunges will be featured at the event, Day-Fenton said.

On Wednesday, Day-Fenton and a few other volunteers are scheduled to be in downtown Steamboat Springs collecting sponsorships and offering information about Penguin Plunge. Look for the people dressed as penguins.

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