SOUTHINGTON — More than 200 people took the plunge into freezing cold water at YMCA Camp Sloper during the 14th Annual Sloper Plunge, raising thousands of dollars to send local children to camp in the summer.
Mark Pooler, CEO of the Southington-Cheshire YMCA, shivered in the cold as he held a bowl of soup in both hands. Pooler has taken the plunge all 14 years, one of only three people to do so. Despite the cold, Pooler said he is excited to participate in the event each year.
“The most fun part I have at this point is watching all the first time plungers,” Pooler said. “Seeing the excitement, seeing the anxiety, seeing the energy that they bring is just awesome.”
A total of 6 inches of ice was removed from the surface of the pond before participants dove into the water on Saturday. Emergency response crews were at the event, with a temperature of 35 degrees and a water temperature that several participants said was colder.
“My fingers are blue. It was very cold,” said Brittany Trip, YMCA marketing director.
Trip, who participated in the plunge, said at first organizers worried the weekend storm might impact the event but hundreds of people attended. Trip said more than $64,000 was raised for the Southington YMCA and $9,000 for the Cheshire YMCA.
“We had so many people out here and we actually raised so much more money than we’ve ever raised before,” Trip said.
Greg Colonero said he was willing to take the plunge because it’s a good cause and his children go to the camp. It was the second year he participated in the plunge with a friend. Last year the weather was much warmer.
“This year was unbelievable,” he said. “I got under water and it took me almost all the way out of the water to catch my breath.”
Bruce Haney participated for the first year. He said his daughter Veronica, who attends Thalberg Elementary School, wanted to see her principal dive into the chilly waters.
“It just shows a lot of community spirit,” Haney said. “She was excited because they raised money for charity. That really pushed us to come down and support everyone.”
Jen Rioual said her husband, Brett, participates in the plunge representing Hatton Elementary School. She said with the help of “a lot of layers” her husband has taken the plunge eight consecutive years.
Brett “jumps with all of his coworkers. There’s so many people that do it and it all goes to a good cause,” Rioual said. “Freez’in for a reason.”