POCOPSON — It’s time to break out the bathing suits because people are gearing up to take a dip in the chilly Brandywine Creek as part of the Brandywine Valley Association’s (BVA) seventh annual Polar Plunge.
The plunge, known to bring in participants from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, has also attracted people in past years from Maryland and New York.
The turnout is expected to be the same, if not more, in 2014.“I would say easily over 600 (are expected),” said Cynthia Jaros, development director of the BVA. “The ratio of spectators to those actually going into the water are between 1 to 3, 1 to 5 every year. We anticipate easily over 200 folks will go in the water.”
But for those participating, it doesn’t have to be just a bathing suit.
The Polar Plunge also features a costume contest with a prize being awarded to the person or group voted as the best.
“It keeps things fun and light,” Jaros said. “And it’s a good way to show team spirit when they come out in costume.”
One of those who never passes up on the chance is Mike Murphy, a school nurse at Glen Acres Elementary in West Chester.
“I have come in first, second or third place every year,” he said, which isn’t surprising given his yearly ideas since he started dressing up five years ago. “This year, I found a Mrs. Potato Head costume. I’m going to make up a little sign saying ‘New Jersey Director of Bridges.’ Whatever is going on at that time in the news, I just throw that into it.”
Despite the frigid temperatures and the amount of snow the area has received this winter, the BVA is anticipating the numbers of participants to be higher than ever.
“The number grows every year,” Jaros said. “It’s been awfully darn cold, but the event is rain, snow or sunshine. We do our best to keep it safe and we have Fame Fire Company. They have a cold water rescue team that is out there in the water.”
Even with the possibility of ice on the creek, everything will be taken care of to make sure the plunge goes off without a hitch.
The plunge, which takes place at the Brandywine Picnic Park in Pocopson, will help the BVA raise awareness about its work with the Brandywine Creek Watershed. Participants help by collecting donations from friends and family.
“We’re trying to raise $20,000,” Jaros said. “That money supports our conservation efforts in the Brandywine watershed, which includes education programs that reach over 12,000 school students.”
Murphy has seen firsthand what BVA does to educate the youth,
“Our school goes out to the BVA and they have these educational programs based upon different environments,” he said. “It’s just outstanding. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning because they’re having so much fun.”
The first 200 participants to register will receive long-sleeved T-shirts commemorating the event.
Awards will be given to the top individual fundraiser, the largest group, the group raising the most money and to the best costume.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep it fun, keep it safe and provide a nice, warming area for them once they get out of the water,” Jaros said.