Ridgefield’s finest take the plunge for Special Olympics CT

RIDGEFIELD - Although the day’s high did not peak past 40 degrees, dozens of brave residents took a dip in the chilly waters of Great Pond over the weekend to support Special Olympics Connecticut.

Sunday’s Penguin Plunge was the first in a series of plunges SOCT hosts to benefit its sports, health and fitness programs for athletes of all abilities. This was the first year the organization sponsored a plunge in Ridgefield, which was hosted by the town’s Police Benevolent Association at Martin Park Beach.

The goal of the PBA is to provide protection, service and financial assistance to the community wherever needed. It is made up of the men and women of the Ridgefield Police Department, and sponsors community outreach events for residents of all ages. These activities are run voluntarily by off-duty police officers.

“The PBA is one of the big charitable arms of the police department,” PBA President Chris DiFalco said. “We do a bunch of different programs throughout the year (focused on) community policing, and (those) interactions make the job that much better.”

Since members typically participate in SOCT’s Torch Run each June, they wanted to find other ways to get involved with the organization, DiFalco said. Seeing Martin Park Beach as “a great venue” for a plunge, the PBA reached out to organizers to see if they could squeeze in an event around the holidays.

Participants had to raise a minimum of $25 before taking the plunge. DiFalco said around 35 people signed up, including a handful of PBA members.

“It’s a real hard sell,” he said with a laugh, “but it was a decent turnout for something that was planned with short notice.”

Local businesses provided hot beverages and warming tents on the day of the plunge, which saw some participants donned in Santa hats. In addition to raising money for SOCT, the event also gave spectators an opportunity to see police officers as who they really are: people.

“Everyone rallies behind Special Olympics — it’s a great organization for a great cause, and that’s what the PBA is all about,” DiFalco said. “When they see us do silly things like getting dressed up and jumping into cold water, it’s a whole different side.”

For more information, visit soct.org.