One may think that convincing hundreds of people to dive into near-freezing water would be a difficult task.
Yet somehow, Jim Jordan – Hockessin resident and executive director of the Brandywine and Red Clay Valley Association in Unionville, Pa. – manages to do just that.
For the past seven years, Jordan and the BV/RCVA have sponsored the Polar Plunge at the Brandywine Picnic Park outside West Chester in an effort to raise funds for the non-profit watershed conservation organization.
Since it started in 2008, the annual Plunge has raised over $91,000 for their conservation efforts and educational programs. And in that time, over 900 people have waded into waters with temperatures between 32 and 34 degrees – all for a good cause.
Jordan, who explained the event grew out of his New Year's Day surfing excursions in his younger days, said that it's actually gotten easier to attract people to the event over the years.
"We just tell 'em it's a challenge, a badge of honor, and an opportunity to really do something on a small grassroots level to preserve the environment," he said. "Plus, in February there's not a whole lot going on. The Eagles are done playing so people are looking for a way to shake the winter doldrums."
With a large portion of northern Delaware – including the city of Wilmington and portions of New Castle County – getting their drinking water from the Brandywine Creek as it feeds into the Christiana Basis, Jordan said that Delawareans have a vested interest in keeping the source clean.
"We're stewards of the watershed, and a lot of the work we do has a direct impact on Delaware," Jordan said.
With nearly 300 people taking the chilly dip last year, Jordan said the event has quickly become one of the organization's most successful annual fundraisers.
"A lot of people come back year after year, they come back and bring friends," He said. "And that keeps the event growing and moving forward."
"Plungers" (as they're affectionately called) often create teams and dress in outrageous costumes – something Jordan said is encouraged, with prizes offered for unique costumes and for the most money raised by teams and individuals.
Jordan also said that the nearby park – between eight and 10 miles for most Hockessin residents – is a shorter trip than similar events taking place at beaches downstate.
"It's a real badge of honor for Delawareans, because the stream is generally colder than the ocean," Jordan said. "It's not unusual to be right at freezing."
The Brandywine and Red Clay Valley's eighth annual Polar Plunge is Saturday, Feb. 8, with registration between 10 and 11 a.m., and splashdown at 11:30.
Page 2 of 2 - Sponsors for the event include presenting sponsor North Face, WSFS Bank, Aztec Printing, Solitude Lake Management and numerous others.
For more information, visit www.brandywinewatershed.org.