SOUTHINGTON – Considering the recent weekend weather, Saturday’s near-50-degree temperatures felt downright tropical.
But that didn’t make it any easier for the 150 brave souls who participated in the YMCA’s13th annual Sloper Plunge at the Camp Sloper Pond.
“In my experience as a 13-year plunger, I believe it is actually more of a shock to your system when we have warmer air and colder water,” said Mark Pooler, the YMCA’s director of operations. “People who come in thinking this is going to be a walk in the park are in for a rude awakening.”
Pooler said officials cut through almost nine inches of ice on Friday to prepare the pond for takeoff. The water checked in at about 34 degrees.
All proceeds will go toward the YMCA’s Annual Campaign, which provides camp scholarships for children in town to attend Camp Sloper over the summer. YMCA officials set a goal of $45,000 for this year’s event.
“People like the Sloper Plunge because it is a little bit on edge, a little bit crazy and a lot of fun,” Pooler said. “People like stepping out of their comfort zone, but the biggest reason is because it’s for a good cause. Everyone who jumps in this pond realizes it is the same pond where kids are going to learn how to swim, build confidence and develop lifelong skills. They realize that summer camp is an amazing opportunity for kids.”
Pooler is one of four people who have participated in the plunge since its inception. John Myers, executive director of the YMCA, Al Natelli and Jackie Nadeau are the others.
The Sloper Plunge featured 10 teams. The Southington Rotary Club was this year’s feature team and raised $6,000. The group started the event, leaping into the water while the DJ played Van Halen’s, “Jump.”
Rotary Team co-captains Robin Morrell and Lauren Dziedzic-Knapp led the way, with team members wearing shark and jellyfish costumes handcrafted by Morrell.
“It’s for the kids,” Dziedzic-Knapp. “The cold doesn’t bother me. For some of my teammates, this is on their bucket list.”
Saturday’s teams also included: Team YMCA, Team Southington Fire Department, Team Board of Ed, Team Southington Politicians, Team Calvanese Foundation, Team Southington Police Department, Team Lake Compounce, Team Southington Town Hall and the Leaping Ladies.
Karen DiGirolamo participated for the fifth year with the YMCA team. She joked that Saturday’s weather “felt like summer.”
“But cold is cold,” she added. “It doesn’t make one bit of a difference. You jump in and it’s a shock. Every time I stand on the dock, I say, ‘This is for the kids. Just do it,’ before I jump. It’s a great event and it’s a great cause.”
To DiGirolamo’s point, Pooler relayed a story at the start of the event about a boy named Jalen who received a scholarship to attend camp last summer. The boy so enjoyed the experience that he saved his birthday and Christmas money and donated $100 to the YMCA on Friday.
“That,” Pooler said, “is what it’s all about.”