By SHERIDAN ROY
The 14th annual Sloper Plunge broke records on Saturday, raising over $72,000 for scholarships to send kids to summer camp at YMCA Camp Sloper. There were so many jumpers this year—more than 200—that it took almost an hour for all of the teams to take the plunge, one-by-one, into the 37-degree water in Sloper Pond.
“This is such a great event that is guaranteed to get the community together. There are hundreds of people here even just to show support and watch,” said Southington-Cheshire community YMCA CFO Tabitha Stein. “I get to see the people who the funds help and they are so grateful.”
Stein said she often sees those who benefit from the scholarships become inspired to give back, too.
“Often times they save up their own money in their piggy banks and come back to donate it so others can have the same experience they did,” said Stein. “Camp becomes a safe and fun place for them.”
This year’s feature team was the Southington High School football team, led by coach Mike Drury. Thirteen of them took the plunge into the icy waters.
“We’re just happy to be here as the feature team and to help out,” said Drury. “The YMCA does such a great job and is always there for the community. It’s great to give back and be supportive.”
This year the Cheshire YMCA joined in on the fun, and director of community development Doug Levens took his job seriously in recruiting jumpers.
“I encouraged about 25 people from the Cheshire YMCA, the police department, fire department and three pizza shops,” said Levens, a first time jumper himself. “I’d been rallying up people from around the community so of course, if I’m asking them to do it, it’s only fair I do it too.”
Fourteen-year jumper Jackie Nadeau did not miss her chance to keep the tradition going. When asked why she keeps coming back, she said, “it’s all for the kids.”
“This is a great reason to raise money,” said Nadeau. “I grew up at Camp Sloper, so it’s great to let others experience all of the wonderful things camp has to offer.”
Teams jumped in support of a variety of organizations or missions. Many local schools and school boards had jumper teams; the local police and fire departments took the plunge; the Calvanese Foundation participated, and many others.
The Leaping Ladies jumped for the fourth year in a row, and this time, expanded their group to include two men. The Leaping Ladies & Lads brought 15 jumpers into the waters.
“We originally were inspired by the town’s Leading Ladies program,” said team member Shannon Eterginio. “We do this each year because it’s fun. The goal is always to send kids to camp who can’t afford it on their own.”
Both Southington and Cheshire YMCA’s exceeded their fundraising goals. Southington was shooting for $50,000 and brought in more than $64,000. Cheshire was going for $8,000, and they exceeded their goal.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JANELLE MORELLI
(Click to enlarge)