Taking the plunge for a good cause

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NEW HAVEN-- A group of about 50 people greeted the new year with a cold shoulder, and arms, and legs and--you get the idea.

Jan. 1 welcomed the annual polar plunge at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, where dozens of intrepid northerners sprinted into the Long Island Sound to raise money for the Elm City Parks Conservancy.

"We've done it every year except the year of the Hurricane (Sandy)," said Marge Ottenbreit, who organizes the polar plunge. The swimmers strip down and suit up, braving water temperatures that, this year, hovered around 40 degrees.

"We do it because it's fun and its crazy and people think we're nuts!" said Michelle Morgan, from East Haven, just before taking the plunge.

Adding to the ambiance, swimmers are invited to show up in costume. New Haven's Tony Juliano somersaulted into the frigid waters in a pig mask and pink tutu. "This is going to be my yearly tradition," he said.

With ice water in her veins, literally, 7-year-old Carlina Moore showed up many of the adults who stayed put on the sand. "It was exciting but very, very cold!" she said as her teeth chattered.

Carlina's father, Patrick added, "It's a wonderful cause to get out here and start the new year and raise money for the park."  A welcome sight just off the beach were two inflatable hot tubs which warmly received many of the participants after their plunge. Ottenbreit estimated that the polar plunge raised around $6,000 for park needs this year.