People’s lips quivered and their bodies shivered. After all, it was 34 degrees at Oakland Beach where the wind chill factor made it feel like 28, not exactly ideal conditions to take a dip into Greenwich Bay.
Yet, the Super Heroes (Macaroni Kids), Warwick Neck White Whales and Pajama Party Pack, just to name a few teams, were dressed in a variety of multi-colored garb for Saturday’s second annual Rhode Island Polar Dip.
Upwards of 100 plungers raised $25,000, which will send the immediate families of a dozen children with life-threatening illnesses to Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine. Last year’s Polar Dip had 85 plungers who raised $19,000.
“I’m cold; but I’ll get used to it,” said Danielle Corbin, who works in the cafeteria at Citizens Bank and was dressed in a sleeveless top, yoga pants, sneakers and a hat, when asked about the bone-chilling temperatures. “It’s worth suffering for five minutes for the kids.”
That was the consensus Saturday, especially when Mike Smith, who serves as director of special events for Camp Sunshine, announced while holding a bull-horn, “We’ve exceeded our $20,000 goal and are now at $25,000 and counting.”
The roar of voices that filled the chilly air created more heat than the log-filled, burning fire pit that was set up outside what will soon become Iggy’s Boardwalk, located next to Iggy’s Doughboy and Chowder House that’s owned by event host David Gravino.
Saturday’s second annual Polar Dip, and near-unmatched organization, generated by the founding Henriques family featured lots of little success stories before it translated into a successful fundraiser at Oakland Beach.
“Right now, we’re at $25,000 and counting and we’re expecting more money to come in!” exclaimed Becky Henriques, who along with her sister Christina and parents Jack and Carole have been Camp Sunshine volunteers for 10 years.
When asked if she was surprised, Becky Henriques, who like her sister Christina was dressed as a Twinkle Toe Ballerina with a matching wand, quickly said, “Yes. The online [donations] were more than last year. Having the online [donations] made this a huge success; it’s just so simple to go online and donate.”
Becky said more jumpers and more groups participated this year, which helped contribute to Saturday’s success.
“People coming with their friends and forming teams” is another reason for this year’s record-setting total, she added, and “the formation of teams seems to be the trend.”
All those teams, which held individual fundraisers, came dressed to “jump in, jump out and shake it all about,” Becky said, and in a variety of clever and colorful handmade costumes.
Take the Super Heroes, led by Heather Wirtz and Rhiana Menning, who are also known as Macaroni Kids of Cranston and Warwick. More than a dozen or so team members were decked out in various costumes related to their theme.
Prior to Saturday’s Polar Dip, the Macaroni Kids, who were armed with a special banner, posed for photos outside Iggy’s Boardwalk and basked in the glory of having raised the most money of any of the participating teams.
“We’re at $4,000,” Menning said with a smile. “And we’ve got more money coming in.”
Like many of the other teams who sought donations from friends, family and co-workers, the Macaroni Kids have now raised $4,385.
The Warwick Neck White Whales, who just may have been the most fun-loving team Saturday and included Al McCreery, Alain Tranchemontagne, Carolyn Sauve and Tony Chehrelli, raised $3,792.
Honors for the youngest team in Saturday’s Polar Dip went to the Pajama Party Pack, made up mostly of youngsters from Hoxsie Elementary School who were accompanied by Principal Gary McCoombs and faculty member Jaimee Diggings.
The team was captained by Ben Styles, 11, who got permission and held a Pajama Party inside the Warwick-based school. Some of his teammates, who stood on shore Saturday shivering while wrapped in towels and blankets, were Emily Styles, 15; Zach Styles, 12; RJ Ryan, 11; and Tyler Bouressa, 11.
“They raised $653 from that Pajama Party,” a woman said while wrapping a Red Sox blanket around Ben Styles, who, she added, “started this wonderful campaign.”
Whether it was Patti and Rebecca Hickey, Hogan’s Heroes or the grass skirt clad Warriors for Sunshine team of Dawn Englehardt, Eric Chapron and George Huddleston, the teams created buzz for the 2015 Rhode Island Polar Dip.
“We’re really looking forward to next year,” Becky said. “We’ll be working with David Gravino to make it bigger and better; the Macaroni Kids are already planning next year’s costumes and we definitely want more teams.”
Even if you’re a member of the “Chicken Dippers,” who are people that just put their feet in the water, it’s well worth “freezin’ for a reason,” especially when it helps children with life-threatening illnesses enjoy the fun and frolic of a stay at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine.