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Sharks’ Sommer takes plunge for Special Olympics

by Jeremy Lemoine || AHL On The Beat

On Saturday, the first annual Worcester Passion Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics took place at Indian Lake.

To the uneducated person, jumping into a frozen lake with 35-degree (F) water would be downright crazy. But today, the Plungers who braved the frigid temperatures of the lake water jumped because they care about something special, very special.

The Passion Plunge was held in three lakes throughout the state to help raise funds for Special Olympics Massachusetts. This year, the Worcester Sharks have partnered up with the Special Olympics and will hold the Opening Ceremonies prior to their March 2 tilt against the Providence Bruins at the DCU Center.

Of the caring people who were brave enough to jump in the bitter cold water were Sharks head coach Roy Sommer, city manager Michael O’Brien, and city councilor Rick Rushton.

Sommer’s eldest son, Marley, has Down syndrome and autism. Sommer knows first-hand how important the Special Olympics are for people who suffer from mental disabilities and vowed instantly that he would take the Plunge.

Sommer, O’Brien and Rushton were first, known as the “Honorary Plungers.” Hundreds of others followed their lead and hopped in the in the hole that was cut in the middle of a frozen Indian Lake. On Friday night, Sharks president and CEO Michael T. Lehr presented Sommer with a check for $500 on behalf of the Sharks to take part in the Passion Plunge.

Finz, the Sharks’ mascot, was also slated to plunge into the water, but suffered frozen gills before the jump and was told by the City of Worcester firefighters he shouldn’t for safety measures.

Sommer’s wife Melissa and youngest daughter, Kyra, came out to support the cause as well, but did not take part in the plunge. Melissa was not worried about Roy jumping in as he jumps in a cold creek in Montana every year.

“He jumps in the creek during the summer and that’s 40 degrees, so he’ll be fine,” she said. “The only difference is that it’s during the summer so the outside temperature is warmer. It’s glacier fed though and certainly cold enough.”

Coach Sommer’s Plunge was no doubt a Kodak moment as he dove into the frozen lake head first and came up with a face full of mud. The four-and-a-half-foot drop was much closer than he anticipated.

“I thought the firefighters said it was 40 feet deep, that’s why I figured I would dive in,” said the Sharks Coach with blue lips from the frigid temperatures. “I guess I deserved the face full of mud! It was for a good cause though so I’m glad I did it.”

Following the Plunge, Sommer quickly dressed into some warm clothes and raced to the DCU Center for a 1:00 p.m. bus up to Albany to take on the River Rats. It takes a brave soul to jump into that freezing cold water, and for that, the Worcester Sharks are thankful for such a caring and genuine coach.