Hundreds take the plunge in icy waters

Chr9s Barber Digital First MediaThey were much colder coming out than when they went in.

POCOPSON >> Not many people would shed their clothes, put on a swimming suit and plunge into 39-degree water in the middle of winter.

But hundreds of people just did that during the ninth annual Polar Plunge Saturday at the Brandywine Picnic Park.

“I can’t feel my legs or toes, but I think everything else is OK, Kathy Do said shortly after exiting the water. “It was so much colder than I thought it would be. This was my first and probably last time.” Do packed a towel warmer to help her after she came out of the water.

Mike Chambers, owner of Kennett Beverage, also took the plunge for the first time.

“It took my breath away,” he said. “I just had to go all the way under to get the full effect. Right now, I was panting when I got out.”

Eric Etshman took the plunge for the first time, and talked his 10-year-old daughter, Adelaide into doing it as well.

“I can’t feel my toes, but the rest of me is fine,” he said. “It’s for a great cuase, and the Red Clay Creek is right in our back yard.”

Lenny Rivera, who will be president of the Longwood Rotary Club in a few months, took the plunge for the first time.

“I couldn’t feel my legs within 10 seconds,” Rivera said. “I went all the way under and it was way colder than I thought. I still can’t feel my toes and I have socks on.”

The Longwood Rotary Club raised $1,000 for the event, and Tim Rayne, president, accepted the Golden Plunger Award.

“You have to do it, it’s fun stuff,” said Al Iacocca, a local attorney who took the plunge. “But it’s freezing, and I can’t feel my toes and I can’t feel my legs.”

The plunge is the annual fundraiser for the BVA and Red Clay Valley Association and helps raise awareness about their work for the Brandywine Creek Watershed. Since 2008, nearly 1,400 people have taken the plunge to raise more than $123,000 to protect and conserve the regional natural resources. The Polar Plunge is one of BRC’s major fundraisers to offset the cost of environmental education programs reaching nearly 12,000 school students per year.

“This is really important for us,” said Jim Jordan, executive director of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance. “We raise funds for our education programs and watershed restoration. This is zany and it takes a bit of courage to get in the water.”

John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District emceed the event, and Del Bittle, local music icon, spun the tunes. A large bon fire kept the participants warm, and free refreshments were provided to everyone who attended.

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.

The next big fundraiser for the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance will take place March 25, at the Red Clay Valley Cleanup, when 700 local volunteers will help to clean the environment.

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