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Warm hearts brave the cold to raise money for Special Olympics



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Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier, along with Tim Jubert, Tim Ames, Ian Mercaldi, Matt Gilman and Sean Valovanie of the Tilton-Northfield Fire and EMS, jump into the frigid waters of Lake Winnipesaukee for a good cause last Sunday. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
January 13, 2010
MEREDITH — Public safety officials and other community-minded organizations gathered at the town docks in Meredith Sunday to raise money for Special Olympics. Getting the donations was the easy part, most of them said. The hard part came when they had to actually jump into the frigid waters of Lake Winnipesaukee in exchange for those donations.

Jeni Williams of Northway Bank in Tilton laughed and said she raised quite a bit of money.

"My employees wanted to see me suffer," she joked.

Williams was one of the members of the Tilton-Northfield Rotary who participated this year. While she said it was a "really scary" experience, she was ready to sign up for next year's Winni Dip. Tilton Town Clerk and Deputy Clerk, Cindy Reinartz and Andrea Keon, were also part of the Rotary group and said it was an exhilarating experience despite the shocking temperatures.

"It was so cold it took my breath away. I went in up to my knees at first but I had to go deeper and then they had to pull me out. It was my first year but I am definitely doing it next year," Keon said.

All of the Rotary participants said they were grateful for the emergency personnel in the water as they took the plunge. Williams said she had to put her hand out for help and was grabbed and brought to her feet as the icy water enveloped her. Deb Tessier, of Franklin's Savings Bank, agreed it was a truly "breath-taking experience."

Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier was one of the organizers of the event and was very happy with the entire day. The number of participants, as well as money raised, exceeded last year and even the number of spectators rose. Cormier didn't just help organize the Winni Dip, however. He also took the plunge with Tilton-Northfield Fire and EMS members Tim Jubert, Tim Ames, Ian Mercaldi, Matt Gilman and Sean Valovanie. Together the group raised over $8,000 with their swim.

"It was a lot colder than last year, for sure. You could definitely feel the cold this year," Cormier said.

Despite the water temperature, once he warmed up he joked that he was ready to go back into the lake.

Meredith Town Manager Phillip Warren also joined in the plunge.

"It was fun," Warren said. "It was cold, it was refreshing."

Warren's dip in the lake raised $700 for Special Olympics of New Hampshire.

Warming tents and a luncheon at Church Landing helped ward off the chill for the dippers. Special Olympian Amanda Coviello of Allenstown spoke before the awards were announced, telling the crowd how much their efforts to raise money for the athletes meant. The Special Olympics games allowed them to face new challenges, meet new people and make new friends.

This year's theme for the plunge was all about Super Heroes, and the Rotary group chose the U.S. military as theirs.

Dressed in camouflage and marching out for the opening presentation they chanted, "From the Rotary here we are, to celebrate those near and far. They count on us to help them out and this is what it's all about - Special Olympics!"

Their enthusiasm along with the presentation earned them the trophy for Most Distinguished Den.

Other awards were handed out to officials from around the state for Most Distinguished Individual Costume, Most Dominant Den (most participants) and to Hillboro County for raising $10,394, the highest amount donated by a group. Woodstock Police Chief Douglas Moorhead was also recognized for raising the most money as an individual with his donation total of $2,156.

"I just want to thank law enforcement for all they do. I hope the water wasn't too cold," she said.

Director of Development for Special Olympics Carol Cray was pleased with how smoothly the day went in only its second year. She and Cormier said planning for the event began in October. Last year the event was held in March but was up to January due to availability dates for the Church Landing banquet room used for the luncheon. They said they were grateful for the help of Rusty McLear of the Inn at Mill Falls, Alex Ray of the Common Man restaurants, all of the judges for the opening presentations, the State Police and everyone else who helped make the day such a success. In all, over $27,000 was raised for Special Olympics.

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