Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier and County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen accepted the trophy for “Conquering County” from Liam-Drew Huckins of Gilford during ceremonies for the annual Winni Dip, held at the Margate Resort in Laconia. Team Belknap County raised $7,340 for New Hampshire Special Olympians with their icy plunge into Lake Winnipesaukee. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
April 04, 2012LACONIA — They weren't just fooling around when 71 people, most of them members of the New Hampshire law enforcement community, took a dip in Lake Winnipesaukee last Sunday, but as many would tell you, they were "freezin' for a reason."
The fourth annual Winni Dip helped raise money for athletes of the New Hampshire Special Olympics, and was sponsored by the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, in conjunction with Special Olympics. This year's theme was "The '70's and Disco," and many of the participants dressed for the occasion, with mullet wigs and other theme-related costumes. On shore, a crowd gathered behind the Margate Resort in Laconia to watch a costume parade and the unseasonable swim, including some of the Special Olympians and their families.
"Just for the record, the water temperature today is 41 degrees," announced master of ceremonies Mike Ericson of WOKQ radio, as the festivities got underway.
To the tune of the Beatles' classic "Yellow Submarine," State Attorney General Michael Delaney kicked off the icy plunge in Wave A, as he and his fellow dippers burst appropriately through yellow crime scene tape and headed down the beach.
Among those who took the initial plunge with Delaney were the Disco Dippers of Northway Bank and Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier. Cormier is this year's Torch Run Director for the N.H. Chief's Association, and was instrumental in organizing the charitable plunge.
"Every year, I try to make it bigger," Cormier said prior to the start of this year's Winni Dip. "This is a chance for Law Enforcement, Fire and the Attorney General's office to make a difference for these kids."
Joining Cormier for Team Belknap County were County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, Sanbornton Police Chief Steve Hankard, and Gary Robinson of the Tilton Police Department. While Hankard got some good natured ribbing for not being prepared in time to dive in with Wave A as scheduled, he made up for it by joining Wave C with Woodstock Police Chief Doug Moorhead. Moorhead, Hankard found out, is famous for his dramatic belly flops into the lake each year.
"The crowd all agrees. Everyone in Wave C should do a belly flop," announced Ericson.
Moorhead agreed, and led his fellow dippers out onto the far reaches of the boat dock, where the water was deeper. There, he, Hankard, Paul Montray of Merrimack County Sheriff's Department and Lt. Todd Landry of New Hampshire State Police Troop F all made the final splash down for the day.
Moorhead's sister, Diane Scribner, was on hand for the leap, and jokingly dubbed her brother's performance a "Quad Flop" while Moorhead stood nearby and reveled in the moment. Despite the chilly 40 degree temperatures, he appeared to be in no hurry to go inside and change out of his wet clothes.
"It was nice out there today. I would have gone in again," he said.
For Hankard, it was his first Winni Dip, and he was glad to have been a part of it all. The warm sun and early ice out made it a little easier this year, he admitted, but he looks forward to making this a new tradition.
"It's a good cause, and when Chief Cormier called me the other day, I figured as chief, I should get out here and do it," said Hankard. "Next year, I'm going to do better (in fundraising). This year, I just got my feet wet in the whole thing, no pun intended."
Belmont's Josh Gardiner and Liam Drew-Huckins of Gilford, both members of the Winnipesaukee Warriors Special Olympics team, assisted in ceremonies by handing out trophies and prizes to the top fundraisers in several categories. Overall, Team Belknap County did an admirable job raising funds for the athletes, taking home the trophy for "Conquering County" with their $7,340 total. "Most Distinguished Bear" was Kaitlin Hutchins with her Disco Shrek costume. Merrimack Police Department won the "Dominant Den" award with the highest average per team member. Moorhead raised $3,755 to also take home a top prize, and Denis Petit was the highest non-public safety official individual fund raiser. In all, this year's dippers took in $39,614 for New Hampshire Special Olympics, up more than $2,000 over last year.
Martha Bode of the Exeter Area Athletes was the Global Messenger who addressed the dippers following a luncheon held in their honor. She said the organization has given her confidence and helped her meet the goals of her daily life.
"Without Special Olympics, I wouldn't be standing here today. To be asked to talk to you is a pleasure and an honor. I want to say a big thanks to you all today for dipping and raising