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Going "Cold Turkey"

The annual Turkey Dip in Griswold, Connecticut is more than jumping in a pond. It's part of a fundraising event that brought in $5,000 for the Griswold High School Booster Club this year. 

While most people are getting their turkeys in the oven, the Griswold (Conn.) High School Booster Club starts Thanksgiving morning with its annual Turkey Dip. The activities begin on Wednesday night, with a pasta dinner, followed the next morning with the Turkey Dip, in which community members turn in sponsorship money they raised, and jump in the venue's pond. The afternoon features an annual football game against a rival school. All three events serve as fundraisers--and brought in $5000 this year--but the Turkey Dip is most unique. 

Griswold Booster Club president Laurie Sorder believes the Turkey Dip has become a staple for the community's Thanksgiving activities. With the event in its ninth year, it is well known throughout the community, and draws several spectators. "We have donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate for the people who come to watch," Sorder says. "We always get a lot of people that come to watch and take pictures and support the people that are jumping. It's a nice time for the community to get together."

Both community members and students participate, raising money by asking people to sponsor them. Although there has always been high participation among community members in the past, student involvement was lacking. In order to bolster participation, the club started offering incentives to reward the student who receives the highest sponsorship. Along with increasing students' interest and sparking friendly competition, the amount of funds raised has increased.

"For the incentive, the student that raised the most money in sponsorships would get an iPod," Sorder explains. "The next year we graduated to an iPad, and found that to be a really nice incentive. We've gotten more students involved and they got more sponsorships - our top participant this year raised $1009."

This year, the second highest fundraiser received an award of $100. "We made an impromptu decision at the event," Sorder explains. "Because our second place participant gave us a thousand dollars, we were really torn. This kid had raised only nine dollars less than the other student."
 
The club also decided to give a gift card to the third place winner, who raised over $700. In the future, it will incorporate three prizes into the event.
 
Although overall participation has not grown exponentially, the amount of money that is raised has increased, as well as the community attendance and support. This is partly due to a local radio station's involvement, which includes a live broadcast of the event. "We have an MC set up with a microphone, and the music that's blasting from the radio station," Sordor says. "Then we hold a 50-50 raffle, for the people who aren't involved in the dip, and that usually gives us about $500. We just try to take advantage of every opportunity that we have."
Sorder's advice to others is to plan well and advertise the event when you are first starting. Once it becomes a tradition, however, word of mouth spreads and it becomes easier every year.
 
"Now we're at the point where it's very routine, and takes about a month," she says. "We start getting our flyers out at the end of October, and we really don't have to do much else. In the beginning, it takes a lot of advertising and you have to realize it is going to grow, because the word has to get out.
 
"It's a really fun event," she continues. There are some people there that really, really like jumping in. I know a few who come down every year, and I'm thinking, 'oh gosh, she's crazy,' but they love it."


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