By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – If you ever had the gumption to take an icy ocean plunge on New Year’s Day, Sunday was certainly the day to do it. Bright blue skies and temperatures hovering around 50 degrees made an otherwise daunting experience a little bit more tolerable as two groups of bubbly locals dipped for charity at Compo Beach.
Up first, at 10 a.m., was Team Mossman Triathlon Club, a band of about 35 hearty souls, who were raising money for Westport-based Save the Children. Each participant paid a $50 entry fee, though many went above and beyond that figure with special fundraising extras.
Andrea Williamson-Hughes, corporate secretary at Save the Children, for instance, had friends sponsor parts of her body and represented their donations by writing their names on those body parts. “I do it because it’s a great way to start the new year, be with friends and do something good,” she said. “People all over the world suffer in tough conditions. If I have to be uncomfortable for a few minutes, it’s the least I can do to help.”
Team Mossman event organizer Robin Myers said a small bunch of folks used to do the plunge for fun before the town made them get a permit. Then they opened it up to everyone. Offering a bit of advice to would-be plungers, Myers said, “You have to have a great sense of humor.”
Before leading the group into the brisk Sound waters, Myers announced, “You can hang out in the water as long as you like. No one’s going to kick you out today. But one thing – it’s not an official plunge until you put your head under.”
Emerging from the water after her dip, Jeanette Trujillo, from Norwalk, reported, “I ran a 5k first, so I got warmed up. The water was very shallow. You have to walk in far then dive.”
On Team Mossman’s wet, sandy heels were members of Temple Israel and their friends, who had organized an 11 a.m. Polar Plunge at the same site. Their effort supported the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Becca Allen, Chief Program Officer of the camp organization, said Temple Israel has been doing a plunge for charity for the past five years, choosing a different beneficiary each year.
There was no set entry fee, but there was obvious generosity on the part of participants and corporate groups that were tapped by temple members. Pre-plunge, Allen said about $60,000 had been contributed.
The collaboration between Temple Israel and the charity came about through a camper, Blake Katzman, 8, who has severe hemophilia. Blake had the distinction of giving the greenlight for participants to run into the water.
Paul Gordon, who made a sizeable contribution through his company and was plunging with his daughter Tess, said pre-dip, “In our experience, the warmer the air temperature, the colder the water feels when you come out.”
Post-plunge, David MacNiven, director of Team Hole in the Wall, said, “We’re thankful for Temple Israel for helping us kick off the year right. Their generosity will help send 25 kids to camp.”