Newport might have the Polar Bear Plunge and Narragansett boasts of the Penguin Plunge while there are also other places in Rhode Island where people take a dip into the frigid deep on New Year’s Day.
But no town or city in the Ocean State rivals Warwick when it comes to ushering in the New Year by running into the freezing cold water to raise money for charity.
In fact, to say that Warwick is the Plunge Place of Rhode Island would be an understatement, especially after last Wednesday when more than 300 people braved the frigid waters that surround the city and raised upwards of $14,000 for four different non-profit groups.
Here’s a synopsis of the four events that were held despite the blustery cold air, 39.7-degree water temperature and fact that the tide was surprisingly at an all time low.
FROZEN CLAM PLUNGE
“Although it was low tide and we had to run out about 150 feet to the water, this year was a record for us!” exclaimed Jo-Ann Schofield of the third annual Frozen Clam Plunge at Goddard Memorial State Park. “We had over 100 plungers and right now we’re at $5,300.”
That money, Schofield reports, is used to support the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership.
“It helps with efforts on a statewide basis,” said Schofield, “We run the Warwick Mentoring Program as well.”
The Frozen Clam Plunge was founded by Ryan McGowan, who owns and operates Laid-back Fitness that’s located off lower Post Road and has hosted the event the past three years.
“We’re extremely thankful to him for ‘forcing’ us to jump in water,” Schofield mused, adding that “we sell T-shirt and hat sponsors to raise money. That’s why we raise so much money and we’re hoping to build on our momentum; there will be a fourth annual Frozen Clam Plunge in 2015.”
Except next year, Schofield – and others – hope the tide won’t be as low.
“Jumping in at low tide isn’t as much fun as when it’s high tide,” she went on. “It’s a long walk into cold water.”
This year’s event wound up with a post-plunge party at Ritrovo’s, a Warwick business that Schofield thanked for their generosity and hospitality.
PUNK ROCK PLUNGE
Although more than 300 people turned out to support the second annual Punk Rock Plunge at Oakland Beach, the total number of plungers was 125.
“We raised around $5,000 to $6,000,” reported Tony Soly, who works for Cox Communications and lives in Slatersville. “That wasn’t as good as year’s total mainly because we had more expenses this year.”
This year’s Punk Rock Plunge, which held its post-plunge part at the soon-to-be open Iggy’s Boardwalk that was formerly known as Marley’s On the Beach, had such operating expenses as insurance that Soly said went up, food, the ambulance … the economy has been hurting and we felt that this year.”
Soly did say, though, that proceeds from this year’s plunge will help the family of Jake Gallerani, 10, of Uxbridge, MA with expenses not passed for by their health insurance.
“Jake has soft tissue sarcoma cancer,” Soly explained. “He wasn’t responding to treatment and the family found a facility that will run tests, but that’s not covered by insurance. All our net profits will go to the family’s expenses.”
Last year’s plunge raised money for Angelina Rose Cox, who passed away when she was just six months old.
When asked if there will be a third annual Punk Rock Plunge, Soly replied: “We’re in talks with Iggy’s to have a huge one in 2015. That will coincide with the first major event at Iggy’s Boardwalk.”
PIT BULL PLUNGE
Between 30 and 40 plungers took part in the third annual Pit Bull Plunge at Warwick City Park and raised $2,325 for what chairperson Susan Parker said “is a community based non-profit program that raises money and enables people who are terminally ill to keep their pets.
This year’s event was as unique as the 501c3 organizations cause.
“We had teams this year,” said Parker, who along with her husband owns and operates Dynamic Dog Training at 859 West Shore Road. “Each team member was asked to get $5 or more in pledges. We had give teams and Team Marco took home the trophy.”
Even Molly O’Brien, the peppy NBC-10 television traffic reporter entered a team while others were uniquely named Team Sea Hags – Parker’s team -- that placed second; the Hot-Chicks and Cute Pits, and Team Uniballer.
The event also raised money for what Parker said is a “brand-new program that helps pay for expenses for those terminally-ill people who don’t have a way to pay their pet expenses.”
Although the Oakland Beach Carousel Foundation’s sixth annual Seawall Splash only had 26 plungers and the frigid temperature probably kept some people home, the volunteers who proudly present the event were armed with unmatched enthusiasm and – as Chairperson Doreen Kosciusko emphasized – “We will not give up on our overall goal.”
This is to one-day build an actual fully-operating carousel that would resemble the merry-go-round of yester-year at Oakland Beach.
“This year’s donations weren’t all that great,” Kosciusko, who works in the law office of Beacon Mutual Insurance, noted. “We covered our costs and wound up with right around $500.”
While Kosciusko said, “it wasn’t a great amount, we’ll do it again next year. We’re going to regroup and see what people want and what makes sense. Fortunately, we had volunteers who came out to help and we really appreciate all those people who came to watch in the cold.”
Among the volunteers was Chuck Hewitt, the Oakland Beach Carousel Foundation’s Head Carver/Artistic Director.
When asked if he thinks there will ever be a carousel, Hewitt replied – while chatting with King Neptune (Jerry McLaughlin) and Warwick City Council President and Oakland Beach resident Donna Travis: “I certainly hope so; I love carving these horses.”
And that could be the reason Keith Tremblay, a Warwick native who now lives in Swansea, MA, dragged my friends here for this year’s Splash.
“I’ve been coming here for the past six years,” Tremblay offered. “This is fun; it’s for a great cause; my buddies are cold and so am I. But we’re having fun and celebrating New Year’s Day.”