Shelburne resident celebrates a decade of charity

SHELBURNE Marc Lewis' introduction to the world of fundraising for worthy causes started over a decade ago. That's when he participated in a charity "lock-up," and while he enjoyed helping raise money for people in need, he discovered that he craved more stimulation. Shortly after that, a co-worker asked Lewis to join him in the Penguin Plunge, an annual event that draws many to raise money in support of the Special Olympics. "It was fun," said Lewis of this years plunge into Lake Champlains icy waters during the Winter Festival. Lewis, 46, has been a Shelburne resident for two years. This year marked Lewis's 10-year anniversary of taking the plunge into the frigid lake. While the married father of four is pleased to reach the milestone, Lewis also takes pleasure in the amount of money he raised for Special Olympics Vermont. When all the money has been tallied up, Lewis noted he has raised over $11,000 for the Williston-based charity over the decade. Usually, Lewis, who works as the front-end manager at the Shelburne Supermarket, starts to receive donations from the community in December, but this year he started later, seeing funds coming in early January. "Every year it gets better and better," Lewis said. "It's overwhelming and I'm amazed by the generosity of people." The day before the Penguin Plunge Lewis was spotted at the Supermarket, wearing one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts, decorated with penguins. The rest of his outfit was vintage Lewis: shorts and sneakers. He explained he wears that casual clothing year-round, noting he dislikes cold weather. Held on the second Saturday in February, the Plunge sees participants of all ages don various swimming costumes to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont. With the goodwill of hundreds of supporters, Lewis headed to downtown Burlington last Saturday to wade into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain. Wearing the penguin shirt, Lewis ran into the lake, got wet and returned to a warming tent, where he stripped off the soaking layers. Lewis explained that the event's popularity grows yearly and many local celebrities either participate or cheer for swimmers. Lewis said he saw Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss and also glimpsed former Gov. Howard Dean lending support. A longtime blood donor, Lewis also praised community members for helping him prepare for the event. One Shelburne resident made posters that were placed around town, advertising the Plunge. "It makes you feel good," Lewis said. As an organization, Special Olympics started in 1962 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in her Maryland backyard. Originally dubbed as Camp Shriver, President Kennedy's younger sister began the event as a day camp for people with disabilities. The first formal competition was held in Chicago in 1968.

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