Freezin’ for a Reason; Penguin Plunge at Nyack Memorial Park

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By Dylan Bestler

(Gabriella Carney and her family)

(NYACK, NY- March 5th, 2017) Hundreds of Rockland County residents gathered at Nyack Memorial Park Sunday afternoon to celebrate the 10th annual Penguin Plunge. The Penguin Plunge, founded in 2008 by Barbara Noyes and Mike Lynch, is when people join together to take the cold dive into the Hudson River in an effort to help local families in Rockland County pay their children’s medical bills.

The event started at 12:00 pm. Attendees had the opportunity to enjoy free food, free drinks and live music. There were also raffles and clowns. The actual plunge was at 1:45 where close to one hundred brave individuals ran into the 32 degree waters of the Hudson River.

“I think it’s great how the community can all come together to help myself and two other kids,” says Molly McGovern, one of the children receiving the donations. “It shows how much the community really cares about each other which is a good thing.”

Molly, now 18 years old studying early childhood education at Rockland Community College, was diagnosed with a pineoblastoma, a type of brain tumor when she was 14 months old. She had surgery to remove the tumor and then had chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue. She made a full recovery, but early in 2016, she began suffering severe headaches and an MRI showed that she had a large mass pressing on her brainstem. Surgery performed on May 13, 2016 was able to remove 90% of the tumor, which was diagnosed as a benign meningioma.

The Penguin Plunge’s second child is two and a half year old from Tappan, Gabriella Carney. Gabriella was diagnosed with a rare genetic liver disease called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD) in September of 2015. She has battled with persistent low blood sugar, multiple hospitalizations and other medical related issues associated with the disease.

“I’m literally speechless, it’s very motivating,” Gabriella’s mother, Cassandra says about the turnout of the event. “My husband and I have never felt more support from people. I can literally cry about how amazing it is.”

The last child is five year old from Congers, Noah Diaz. Noah was born with a severe heart conditions, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Double Aortic Arch and already has had three open heart surgeries.  He also has a rare genetic syndrome, Kabuki, with developmental delays, generalized hypotonia and hypoglycemia episodes.

Throughout the year, Penguin Plunge Inc. hosted many events that raised money and awareness for these children leading up to this event. All donations go directly to the families. Founder, Barbara Noyes was extremely happy with the turnout of Sunday’s event and the potential amount of donations they received.

“We haven’t finished the donations yet. We noticed that when we starting helping three children instead of two, that it brought a special synergy that actually increased our donations. We just hope that this will be one of our best years,” Barbara said proudly. “It’s just wonderful to see everyone here in this beautiful weather.”

Many local sport teams were there supporting the cause as well including the Tappan Zee boy’s lacrosse team, the Clarkstown South track and field team, and the St. Thomas Aquinas College softball team. The Penguin Plunge thanks everyone who came out and supported this year’s plunge.

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