By JEN CARDINES
The Southington YMCA took the “Polar” out of their 12th annual plunge on Saturday, Jan. 21, and sure enough, the weather was a record breaking 50 degrees. The newly named “Sloper Plunge” drew crowds to the Camp Sloper grounds as nearly 120 jumpers made a splash in the local pond.
This year’s teams included Southington Fire Department, Board of Education, Southington politicians, Calvanese Foundation, Team Southington, Lake Compounce, Jon’s Jumpers, Leaping Ladies, Sign Pro, Katie Dobrocyznski Memorial team, Team YMCA, and Team YMCA Camp Sloper.
The first jumpers were from the Mill Foundation for Kids, the 2017 Feature Team.
While introducing them, event emcee Patrick Connelly said, “[The Mill Foundation] does a lot for kids, including freezing for kids.”
YMCA executive director John Myers said that the foundation does a lot for local neighborhoods.
Most people took the plunge in matching team shirts and colors, but other jumpers had a more creative approach. Thing One and Thing Two, a gorilla, and the Smurfs were all seen leaping into the water, and team Lake Compounce came out in full superhero costumes.
Thalberg principal Megan Bennett arrived in style, flashing her stilettos moments before entering the water.
The 2017 plunge was the event of “firsts.” It was the first time that the Southington YMCA used the name “Sloper Plunge,” which highlighted the nature of the local event. Staff members even set up a Facebook live feed for the first time, so that anyone logged on could watch the event through a video stream.
This year’s surprisingly warm weather made preparation easy on officials because it was one of two years that they didn’t have to remove ice from the pond.
“Mother nature took care of this one,” Myers said. The water temperature remained frigid, measuring at about 34 degrees, but the fire pits and shining sun helped keep jumpers warm.
“Last year was near perfect,” Town Manager Garry Brumback said after diving in. “But this year was perfect.”
Dripping wet from the plunge, Myers took over the microphone to address the sizable crowd. “Today, we raised over $45,000,” he said, answered by a wave of cheers. “Thank you all for the love and support.”
The $45,000 in donations marked a new record for the fundraising event. Proceeds from the event will be used to offer summer camp scholarships to local children.
Following tradition, the Sloper team capped the afternoon with the final leap. Unlike their fellow plungers, Sloper team members pledged to stay in the water for 75 seconds before exiting. Splashing each other, running in circles, and doing jumping jacks helped them pass the time and take their minds off of the cold water.
After all, it’s for the kids.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI