By Lisa Capobianco
Members of the community jumped into the frigid waters of Sloper’s Pond during Southington YMCA’s ninth annual Polar Plunge—all for a good cause.
Transforming into one of Southington’s most popular fundraisers, the Polar Plunge event featured nine different teams made up of local politicians, school staff and officials, YMCA employees, firefighters and police officers. Lake Compounce also had a team of plungers.
Each swimmer requires a sponsor to participate in the event, and all donations benefit the YMCA Annual Strong Kids Campaign, which help provide scholarships for children to attend Camp Sloper. Last year, the YMCA received close to $24,000 in donations. This year, they raised over $28,000.
“It is really one of my favorite days of the year,” said Executive Director John Myers of the YMCA.
Calling himself one of the pioneers of the event, Mark Pooler, the Outdoor Center Camp director at Sloper, makes sure he is the last participant to jump in the pond every year, staying in the water for 75 seconds.
“It is a way for me to raise a little extra money,” said Pooler, adding that the money will help give away scholarships to a little over 100 children.
Former Southington Town Councilor Al Natelli led his team, “Team Southington Politicians” for the ninth year in a row, this time sporting a tuxedo. Since the Polar Plunge began, Natelli and his wife have participated, looking forward to the event every year.
“This is awesome,” said Natelli, adding that his goal is to continue taking the plunge for 25 years. “This is how I start the new year off.”
Town Council Chairman Mike Riccio, along with Town Councilor Tom Lombardi, also joined Natelli’s team. Lombardi said he has taken the plunge before, and feels excited to help make a difference for children who want attend summer camp.
“We support the Y a lot and this is a great way to raise money for a cause,” said Lombardi, who dressed in shorts and a dress shirt for the event.
This year’s “feature team” was “Jon’s Jumpers,” a team created in memory of town resident Jonathon Boros who passed away last year. A veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and later in the Connecticut Army National Guard, Boros participated in the Plunge last year, hoping to make a difference in the life of a child. His wife Hacah said Jonathon had a passion for everything he did, so she wanted to carry on his memory by giving back to the community with a team named after him. Besides serving his country, Boros, along with his wife, also participated in Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training triathlons and marathons.
“He was not afraid to do crazy things,” said Hacah, who served as a team captain for “Jon’s Jumpers.” “It is an honor to extend Jon’s legacy and passion for life.”