Monday Medical: The Plunge comes of age

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When I think of the first Penguin Plunge, I smile. Not because I enjoy jumping into bone-chilling water, but because I was part of an enthusiastic team that came together to create a good-spirited event to help support the health care needs of the Yampa Valley.

Monday Medical

Monday Medical columns publish weekly in the Steamboat Today's Yampa Valley Health section. Read more columns here.

If you go

What: 11th annual Penguin Plunge

When: March 22

Where: Catamount Ranch & Club pool

Details: Visit www.hfyv.org/events for participation and sponsorship information or call 970-871-2502.

The idea of jumping into frigid waters to raise money for a good cause was not a unique one, but it was new to the Yampa Valley. It seemed to be a good fit for the people of Steamboat Springs. After all, we recreate outdoors all winter long, so why not take a dip into freezing cold water?

We made a big splash in our first year. There were 60 brave “plunging penguins” on that first sunny but frosty day in March 2004. More than half of the inaugural jumpers were YVMC employees, and most of the others had ties to the health care community, including ambulance teams and firefighters.

The water was a balmy 33 degrees in the Catamount Ranch & Club pool, where we jumped into the shallow end. We crossed the pool in waist-deep water, most of us wearing our official Penguin Plunge T-shirts.

The event was a success, and the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley was able to purchase a human patient simulator that year, meeting the goal of the fundraiser.

Cut to the present day, and the scene at the Penguin Plunge has changed a bit. You’ll still see colonies of good-intentioned penguins, but now, they jump with flair.

Teams include more businesses, civic organizations and groups of friends who are out to have fun while helping out a worthy cause. There are theme songs, crazy costumes and elaborate choreographed dances. The jumps are bigger and better. The bar definitely has been raised on the fun factor.

The crowd has grown, the music is louder and the deep end of the pool now is the only way to make the plunge. Even “chickens” can participate. There is a chicken coop for those who’d like to be on a team and raise funds for a good cause but don't want to jump in the cold water.

The 11th annual Penguin Plunge is just around the corner. This year’s event will benefit the new Breast Health Center. The center will provide breast health screenings, mammograms and other services for women in Northwest Colorado.

The center will fill an important need. According to a 2013 Community Needs Assessment conducted by the Center for Health Administration at the University of Colorado Denver, not enough Routt County women ages 50 and older are getting their mammograms.

Throughout the years, plunging penguins have filled in the gap to help purchase much-needed equipment and to support medical and emergency services such as new radios for local ambulances and a state-of-the-art CT scanner. Most recently, a three-year commitment from the Plunge helped to grow cancer services here in the valley.

These penguins really know how to put their money where their flippers are. Don’t miss the fun. Gather your colony and take the plunge, and donate or sponsor a friend March 22 at the Catamount pool.

Heather Rose is the marketing and communications specialist at YVMC. She can be reached at heather.rose@yvmc.org.

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