LEXINGTON — Many people enjoy having a pool filled with cool water as a refuge from the blazing sun and hot temperatures during the summer.

In 40-degree temperatures during the month of January, however, ice-cold water is not as attractive.

That did not stop about 500 brave souls, including a group of more than 40 that formed the Madison County Penguins, from taking a splash Saturday during the 2007 Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for the Special Olympics of Kentucky.

“It was the coldest water that I have ever felt,” said Maggy Kriebel, assistant program coordinator for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department. “I was pumped (when I got out) that I was able to stand there and cheer on the rest of our jumpers. The excitement didn’t make it seem as bad as it probably was.”

The fundraiser, conducted outside of Applebee’s Park in Lexington, featured many costumed donors, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Santa Claus and the Splash Test Dummies, complete with pantyhose over their faces.

The majority of the Madison County participants were members of Eastern Kentucky University’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, who helped out for the second consecutive year by raising more than $3,000.

“It was freezing cold,” said Amy Wills, president of Alpha Delta Gamma. “It pretty much took my breath away. It was even worse and even colder when I got out. It felt like pins and needles hitting you everywhere.”

The junior, who is majoring in special education, said the girls wanted to show even more support this year than last year.

“Last year, we had a small group come out,” said Wills, a first-time jumper. “This year, we had an even bigger group. Last year, we got involved and a lot of the girls are involved in Special Olympics. So, when we were contacted again, we thought it would be an even better opportunity to raise money for such a good cause.”

The added help from the sorority allowed the Penguins to take home the Polar Bear Cup as the largest participating group in the plunge.

“This is so awesome. I am so excited. I can’t believe it,” Kriebel said as she held the trophy. “I feel like we are doing really good things in Madison County.”

“It’s a great partnership that we’ve been able to create with Alpha Gamma Delta,” she said. “Their commitment toward this event and raising money for Madison County Special Olympics just goes above and beyond what we ever imagined.”

Not all of the Madison County jumpers were sorority members, however, as three guys from Richmond -- Nathan Ballard, Brian Moscoe and Joe Appleget - and an 11-year-old girl also took the plunge.

Trisha Brockmeyer, a Model Laboratory School student, jumped for the second year after telling her family last year that she would never do it again.

“It was freezing,” she said. “It’s like knives piercing your body. I think it was better last year.”

“My brother does a lot of the (Special Olympic) sports,” Brockmeyer said. “So, I wanted to continue supporting him.”

Last year, nearly 400 people took the plunge, raising a record $71,00 to support Special Olympics, which hosts its Summer Games on EKU’s campus.

“This helps us provide year-round sports training and competition for almost 7,000 children and adults right here in Kentucky,” Dave Kerchner, president and CEO of Special Olympics of Kentucky, said about the jumpers. You make it happen by jumping in this cold pool. Our athletes and their families appreciate what you do to make this happen.”

Bryan Marshall can be reached at 624-6691 or bmarshall@richmondregister.com.

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