POCOPSON—The 40-degree water temperature didn’t faze Eric Van Ess of Media at all.
“The water was really cold, but it was refreshing,” said Van Ess, who took part in the 11th annual Polar Plunge Saturday morning at Brandywine Picnic Park, along with dozens of others.
Actually, the water was about 22 degrees warmer than the air temperature, but it didn’t seem to bother those who braved taking a dip in the Brandywine River in the middle of winter, dressed only in their swimming suits.
“It was freezing cold, my fingers went numb,” said Robert Vitullo, who attends Stetson Middle School in West Chester.
“I’d do it again,” said Ryan Pardue. “It felt wonderful. It just woke me up.”
Steven Clark, who has taken the plunge several times, said the water felt great.
“My coffee didn’t wake me up this morning, but now I am awake,” he said, seconds after emerging from the water.
Bob Curran, who took the plunge on behalf of the Longwood Rotary Club, completely submerged in the water just before exiting.
“It’s like a summer day in Maine,” he said.
Rhinnon Stewart was shivering after she emerged from the water.
“It was really cold, but I would do it again,” she said. “I started to feel like a block of ice.”
Michael Hochman, and his wife Jackie took their children, ages 8, 10 and 12 into the icy waters and did the plunge as a family.
“It was pretty warm, like taking a bath,” said Hochman, whose children attend Patton Middle School and Chadds Ford Elementary School.
But his son, Matthew, didn’t think so.
“I can’t feel my legs,” he said.
There was a bon fire to keep the plungers warm, and some danced to music spun by DJ Del Bittle. Emcee was John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.
The Golden Plunger award went to the Longwood Rotary Club, which raised $2,000 for the event.
Over the past 10 years, the Polar Plunge has raised nearly $150,000 and attracted more than 1,800 plungers. 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 Daily Local News, 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, Del. - groups of brave souls who dive into the frigid depths in the middle of winter.