New Year’s Day in Kennebunk, Maine dawned with blue skies and temperatures in the low 40s. But with a crisp breeze sweeping over Gooch’s Beach, wind chill took the mercury down to almost 30 degrees.
That didn’t stop nearly 100 intrepid souls from participating in the annual Polar Plunge in the arctic Atlantic, cheered by locals swathed in puffer coats, fur hats and scarves.
“Freezin’ for a Reason” is one of Caring Unlimited’s major annual fundraisers. All money raised through registration, pledges and donations help to sustain this York County program and provide critical, round-the-clock support and safety planning to family members, friends and neighbors experiencing abuse. Participants pay $25 for the privilege of jumping into the freezing water, and they’ve been doing it for 16 years.
It’s been noted that the Polar Plunge is a sure cure for a New Year’s hangover. (My observation was that the hearty plungers were probably chewing on nails the night before, not doing jello shots.)
What a gathering! Every size body and shape were represented. While waiting for the final countdown, swimmers chatted on cell phones and high-rived fellow plungers. Their nonchalance hinted that running into ice-cold waves was your garden variety dip.
Reporters from Portland television stations roamed through the crowd. One interviewee, Carol Gunter of Kennebunk, proudly stated this was her 12th plunge.
“Ladies and gentlemen, one minute to go!” The man with the mike had been roaming through the crowd and now the moment was near. Swimmers doffed their jackets and blanket wraps, kicked off their Skechers and clogs, threw back their shoulders and prepared for the deluge. “Five…four….three…two….ONE!”
Watching all this, toasty-warm in my down coat and fur-lined boots, I felt nothing but intense admiration for this enthusiastic group of tough souls who were doing good for humanity. Charity events like these happen in many towns up and down the east coast on New Year’s Day. I’m proud my village was one of them.
But don’t get me wrong: I personally would have needed to imbibe a magnum or two of Veuve the night before to build up my courage to don a Speedo and splash in the brisk briny on this nippy New Year’s morning. Well done, plungers!