Over 200 people take a dip in the chilly Brandywine Creek to raise funds for nonprofit watershed organization.
One may think it difficult to convince a bunch of people to strip half naked and run pell-mell into the bitter cold of the Brandywine Creek in the middle of February.
Yet somehow, executive director Jim Jordan and the rest of his crew at the Brandywine and Red Clay Alliance manage to pull off such a feat without resorting to violence or blackmail.
Because last Saturday, just over 200 … well, let’s just say “brave” people waded into the brisk 39 degree creek, making it the “warmest” of the Polar Plunges sponsored by the nonprofit watershed conservation organization.
“It’s practically bath water,” said Bob Klinski, of Wilmington, a first-timer for the event.
At the end of the day, the event attracted 600 attendees, 200-plus “plungers,” and brought in just over $17,000 for the BRCA’s education and conservation programs.
Now in its eighth year – following a break in 2015 as the nonprofit went through an internal merger – Jordan said the event is about more than just raising money for their ongoing outreach and education efforts.
“It’s about raising awareness, and getting young people outdoors, and into nature,” Jordan said. “People don’t frame pictures of their kids playing video games – they frame pictures of them playing or hunting or fishing. And this (event) gets people of all ages out.”
The event also attracts all manner of interesting folks – including some who question their own motives.
“I actually hate the cold – I don’t know why I do it,” said 23-year-old Kate Monaghan of Ardmore, Pa., who has taken the plunge a number of times. “I hate it so much. But I like to support the BRCA, and it’s a good reason to do something crazy.”
She also went completely under water for her plunge, adding that since you’re numb the moment you hit the water, it doesn’t matter what you do once you’re in.
“You have to go under, or it doesn’t count. In my opinion, anyway,” she said.
“I don’t know about all the way under,” said Melissa Massimi of West Chester, a first-timer who joked that she came just to get the “Polar Plunge” tee-shirt.
For his part, Jordan took his dip on Friday – a move he regretted when he awoke to warmer water and air temperatures on Saturday.
“I was a dummy – the water temp rose six degrees in the last 48 hours,” Jordan said. “It was 36 yesterday when I went it to test things out.”
Since 2008, nearly 1,200 people have taken the plunge to raise over $118,000, Jordan said; in the process, they’re helping to preserve a vital part of the region’s drinking water.
“Even though the event happens outside West Chester, the fact is we’re plunging in the drinking water for the City of Wilmington, and for Northern New Castle County,” said Jordan, himself a resident of Yorklyn. “This watershed is part of the Christina River Basin.”
Each year, prizes are given to participants in a variety of categories. This year’s winners include:
Individual raising the most money: Michael John Kelly, $700
Team raising the most money: Widener Kappa Sigma , $925
Group with most plungers: Widener Kappa Sigma, 38 plungers
Best Costume: The Clauser Ninja Turtles