Teams from South Burlington High School (shown) and Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School brave the elements participating in the 2017 Penguin Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont.

32 Degrees of Courage

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Thursday February 16, 2017

South Burlington schools were well represented at this year’s Special Olympics Vermont (SOVT) Penguin Plunge held earlier this month in the frigid waters of Lake Champlain. Teams from South Burlington High School (SBHS) and Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS) raised close to $20,000 combined, proving that warm hearts have what it takes to plunge into the lake with, as SOVT says, 32 degrees of courage.

SBHS team leader Brendan Precourt, who is in tenth grade, can be considered an old hand at this event. Precourt first plunged in sixth grade and hasn’t stopped since. He says, “I started the team here [SBHS] and led it myself last year when I was a freshman. In 2013, I was first introduced [to the Penguin Plunge] by Mr. Russell in the middle school, and myself, Sean Carlson, and Brendan Bridge are the three remaining to do it every year.” The students’ tradition continues to pick up steam adding more plungers and donations as the years go by. This year, Precourt enrolled SBHS sports teams in the Penguin Plunge efforts. His SBHS JV A boys basketball team raised the most of any SBHS school team and had six hearty souls who plunged on February 4. The SBHS girls varsity basketball team, of which Brendan’s sister Nicole is a team member, boasts 100 percent fundraising with every member of the team raising money to go towards SOVT. In the end, the entire SBHS team had 23 plungers and, at last count had raised $9,730. Braeden LaBonte was the highest fundraiser for SBHS.

Precourt adds, “This event means a lot to me because I enjoy playing sports and I want to help give everyone the opportunity to participate. I really hope this event grows at SB and we can take pride in our participation and make it a lasting tradition.”

According to Gary Russell, FHTMS Polaris team social studies teacher and track and field coach, 2017 had record breaking participation and contributions at the middle school, with 50 participants and the latest fundraising total of $9,864. Russell, who coordinated Tuttle’s team effort with Ted Godfrey, Dorset House teacher, says, “The real credit goes to the Carlson family, who first promoted the idea in 2013, Sam and his son, Sean, flanked by Brendan Precourt and Brendan Bridge.”

Noting the two schools’ friendly efforts to out-fundraise each other, Russell adds, “The healthy competition between SBHS & FHTMS is nice . . . it’s inspiring to see these amazing kids carry on this event that they initiated at FHTMS. It’s truly great and refreshing how these kids rise above world events and local controversies and truly ‘give back’ to a great cause.”

SOVT calls the 2017 event “a splashing success!” They report a record-breaking 1,269 plungers on 108 teams participated raising $538,487 to support Special Olympics Vermont, a $64,000 increase over last year. All proceeds from the event will support sports training and competition opportunities, health screenings, and leadership training for children and adults with intellectual disabilities right here in Vermont. Meanwhile, plunge enthusiasts look forward to the 2018 event. As FHTMS sixth-grader Eden says, “I thought it was great! I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to do it next year.”