Scores take the polar plunge; record funding achieved

WEST CHESTER >> About 100 people took the Polar Plunge Saturday morning, taking a dip in the icy Brandywine River, all to raise money to help the local environment. Now in its 10th year, more money was raised this year than in any other year.

One person was injured, a woman in her early 20s, when she passed out shortly after entering the 38-degree water, but medics quickly tended to her and she recovered. Dennis Wallace of West Chester, who has plunged for many years, got a bloody leg after slipping on rocks.

“The current was pretty fast,” Wallace said. “I slipped and fell twice. But it was fun.”

Teresa Sheehan, a die-hard New England Patriots fan who lost a bet with Longwood Rotary President Lenny Rivera, held up her end of the deal by plunging in a Tom Brady jersey. On her way back, she dipped her head completely under the water.


“This is like Maine in the summertime,” Sheehan said, adding that she does not plan to plunge again.

Al Iacocca, a Longwood Rotarian who was recently elected district justice, took the plunge and came out with a smile on his face.

“The water’s just a little cold,” he said.

Emcee for the event was John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Local music icon Del Bittle spun the tunes.

Five members of the Longwood Rotary Club took the plunge and 15 attended. At its meeting earlier this week, the club raised more than $1,600 in about five minutes.

Jim Jordan, director of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, said he was pleased at the turnout.

“We set a record for the most funds raised,” Jordan said. “This was a chance for our local athletes to give their very best to the plunge. I’m a little jealous because I plunged yesterday and (the water) was 28 degrees. I have to pick my dates a little better.”

It was also one of the warmest days for the plunge, with the air temperature in the mid-50s. But it didn’t stop many people from huddling around the huge bonfire after they got out of the water.

More than $2,500 was raised at Saturday’s plunge. Over the past decade, the event has raised nearly $140,000 and attracted 1,600 plungers.

And the plunge has become a tradition – even bragging rights – for many who want to escape the winter doldrums.

The plunge is the annual fundraiser for the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance and helps raise awareness about their work for the Brandywine Creek Watershed and helps to protect and conserve the natural resources of the Brandywine and Red Clay Valleys. The Brandywine Red Clay Alliance undertakes improvements in local watersheds, turns red streams blue, and educates school children in local school districts. Funds from the plunge help to offset the cost of environmental education programs reaching nearly 12,000 school students per year.

The Polar Plunge was supported by Flyway Excavating, Inc., Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning, Longwood Rotary/Unionville High School Interact, WSFS Bank, Hickory House Catering, Brandywine Picnic Park, Meadow Springs Farm, Draper & Kramer Mortgage Co., Champion Specialty Advertising, Embreeville Mill, The Kennett Paper, Aztec Printing, Del Bittle Music, McGovern Septic Services, Solitude Lake Management, Christiana Truck Stop, Sotheby’s International Realty-Brandywine Fine Properties and Trail Creek Outfitters.

The plunge is modeled after the Polar Bear Clubs that have been cropping up in the Northeast, in places like Coney Island and Atlantic City and Dover, De. - groups of brave (or crazy) souls who dive into the frigid depths in the middle of winter.

About the Author

Fran Maye

Fran Maye is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of Shippensburg University. He and his wife Marianne live in East Marlborough. He enjoys golf and is a 4.0 tennis player. Reach the author at or follow Fran on Twitter: @kennettpaper.