NAHANT — Temperatures were below 10 degrees Monday morning, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from plunging into the icy cold water at Short Beach in memory of Michele Durgin.
Durgin was a beloved Lynn teacher and Item features writer who was killed in an automobile accident last January. This year, money raised from Nahant’s annual Freezin’ for a Reason event will go toward scholarships for Lynn Classical High School students in Durgin’s name.
“She would be so humbled and shocked this many people came out and so excited that this money is being raised to allow some Lynn kids to go to school,” said her sister, Marcy Durgin Cronin.
Despite the freezing temperatures, piles of snow, and chunks of ice floating in the ocean, a record number of people showed up to run into the icy water. He estimated there were more than 300 in attendance.
“This is the largest crowd we’ve had so far,” said Mario Capano, who has been organizing the event for a dozen years. “And, this is the first time we’ve ever had ice.”
The sandy spot behind Nahant’s historical Life Saving Station was one of Michele’s favorite places to be, said her sister, Maura Durgin-Scully, as she wore Michele’s fur coat to keep warm after taking the plunge. The Durgin family spread some of her ashes on the sandy shore so a piece of her will always be there.
“I am so grateful for all the people who are here today despite the cold — this is all about Michele,” said Durgin-Scully. “This is just an unbelievable tribute by the people who knew and loved her.”
Durgin taught English and religion at Pope John XXIII High School in Everett. She was an educator at St. Mary’s for 23 years, and at St. Jean Baptiste Elementary School for seven years before that. Her sister said she would have loved knowing she was helping students further their education.
The Freezin’ for a Reason started 12 years ago with just 13 people, said organizer George Sonia. It wasn’t until three years ago that it was turned into a fundraiser, but more than $30,000 has already been raised. One year the money was used to purchase a wheelchair-accessible golf cart, the next it paid for the installation of a splash pad at a park for children with special needs in Lynn.
T-shirts created with a cross that looks like an anchor and a heart above it were sold for $25. The symbol was created for Michele and stands for faith, hope, and love, said Maura.
Rolly’s Tavern in Lynn donated 20 percent of sales following the event to the Michele Durgin Scholarship Foundation.