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A cool way to start the year

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
The Polar Plunge at Fisherman’s Beach in Swampscott was Sunday.

By ADAM SWIFT

SWAMPSCOTT — Compared to some years, it was downright toasty for the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Fisherman’s Beach on New Year’s Day.

Still, it takes a special brand of commitment to take a dip in the Atlantic when the wind is whipping and the thermometer is hovering around 40 degrees.

“It’s a really fun community event,” said Jill Hartmann, whose husband Mike helped start the event 11 years ago. “There’s a core group who has been doing this every year.”

While there was a definite chill in the air Sunday morning, as is to be expected in January, Hartmann said it was a big improvement over the year when the temperature hovered around a bone-chilling 20 degrees below zero.

Hundreds of polar plungers of all ages lined the shore as the countdown began.

For Marblehead’s Braiden Kilroy, 11, this is the second year he’s taken the plunge.

“My dad does it every year, so now I come to do it, too,” he said.

His dad, Dave, said the polar plunge is a great way to start the new year.

“It’s the right way to start the year with a refreshing dip,” said Dave Kilroy. “Later today, I’ll be taking a 45-minute ocean swim.”

Pat O’Neill of Swampscott was doing his best to keep warm before the plunge, and didn’t seem like the type who would be adding an additional ocean swim to his day’s activities.

“It’s for a good cause,” he said. “I’m not really much of a winter person, so this kind of shocks me into it.”

The Annual Polar Bear Plunge is sponsored by the Swampscott Yacht Club and has raised more than $100,000 for local charities over the years, according to Hartmann. This year’s dip raised money for the Swampscott school district’s newly created SWIFT and HARBOR programs and the Russell J. Hopkins Children’s Fund.

Two of the younger swimmers, Geneva Kelleher, 7, and Elizabeth Curry, 6, were quick to bundle up to counteract their chattering teeth after running out of the Atlantic.

“I’m glad I did it but it was really chilly,” said Kelleher.

The Swampscott polar plungers weren’t the only ones to get cold and wet for a good cause on New Year’s Day.

In Nahant, they were “Freezin’ for a Reason” at Short Beach.

The Lynn event was organized by George and Stephanie Sonia, and Patricia, Mario and Nicholas Capano. This year, funds will be donated to “Homes for Our Troops,” which builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes nationwide for severely injured veterans post 9/11, to enable them to rebuild their lives.

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