Swampscott is poised to plunge

December 19, 2016

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Christine DePalma, left, and Stacey Price emerge from the water of Fisherman’s Beach in Swampscott in this January file photo.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Some of the town’s toughest residents will kick off the new year in a unique way, by plunging themselves into freezing water at Fisherman’s Beach.

The Swampscott Yacht Club will host the 11th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m. Hundreds of participants are expected to dash into the water, with proceeds benefiting two local charities.

“It’s just fun and crazy,” said Marianne McDermott, an organizer of the polar plunge. “It’s really a great community event. It sounds crazy going into the water in New England on New Year’s Day …You can say you did it. You can start off the new year with a great accomplishment.”

McDermott plans to take the plunge. Personally, she said she’s a get in and get out of the water type of person, but some people dive in and then go in again. She said there’s no specific strategy, but participants should avoid wearing a lot of clothing when submerging themselves.

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Christine DePalma, of Swampscott, said last year was the first time she’s ever done a polar plunge. She’s not sure if she’s participating this year, but enjoyed her experience.

“It was energizing,” she said. “It was really a fantastic way to start the new year. I left feeling inspired. It was great.”

DePalma said she would advise future participants to bring warm blankets, towels, water shoes, and to come with an open mind.

Mike Hartmann, one of the original organizers, said the event started after the idea was discussed among Yacht Club members. The first year was small, with about 30 participants. He’s jumped in every year since, and recommends people keep their hands and feet warm before going into the water.

Funds will go toward two new programs at Swampscott High School aimed at providing support for students suffering from mental or emotional health concerns. They are Swampscott Integrated for Transition (SWIFT), which is designed to address the needs of students re-entering school after absences because of serious mental problems or medical illness, and the Harbor Program. Harbor is a special education program for students with emotional disabilities that provides a supportive learning environment.

Money raised from the plunge will benefit those programs at the high school and will potentially be used for similar programs at the middle school level.

The other beneficiary is the Russell J. Hopkins Children’s Fund. Rusty Hopkins, a lifelong Swampscott resident, died unexpectedly at 46 on Oct. 25. He left behind three young children, Russell, Troy and Brianna. Funds from the plunge will help pay for their college educations.

Hopkins was a U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War and loved sports. He was part of the Swampscott Little League baseball team in 1983 that won the Massachusetts State Championship and the 1986 Senior Little League state championship team. He was a Swampscott Little League coach and also served on the league’s board of directors.

The Polar Bear Plunge has raised more than $90,000 for local charities since its inception. Last year, the event raised $10,000.

Pre-registration runs through Dec. 28. On New Year’s Day, registration begins at 10:15 a.m. at the Fish House, 425 Humphrey St. Complimentary hot beverages will be available and T-shirts will be given to pre-registered participants. The encouraged minimum donation is $30. Registration materials are available at http://swampscottyachtclub.org and in the office of all Swampscott schools.

Anyone who doesn’t want to get wet can make a donation by mailing a check to the SYC fund at the Swampscott Yacht Club at PO Box, Swampscott, MA 01907, with “polar plunge” in the memo line.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley