It was a very cool way to start the new year. Verrry!
Compo Beach on the first day of 2013, despite residual snow and chilly temperatures, was awash in swimmers as not one, but two, "polar plunges" drew dozens of intrepid people to take a dip in frigid Long Island Sound for charitable causes.
The back-to-back events Tuesday were organized, respectively, by Team Mossman Triathlon Club for the benefit of Westport-based Save the Children and, about an hour later, by Temple Israel to support United Cerebral Palsy.
After its bracing Polar Plunge, the Mossman club planned a 3-mile run to help swimmers warm up a bit.
"It's a great way to start the new year," said Mossman Club President Clay Tebbetts. "It washes away the old year and is an invigorating start to the new ... and the first thing we're doing is helping others."
Amidst the crowd were a couple first-time plungers. A smiling Kate Stoker of Norwalk said, "I'm really scared. I'm not even good at going in the water in the summer. I warmed up with a casual 5-K run, so I think I'm ready to go."
Nearby, wearing a fuzzy hat, bathrobe and booties, fellow first-timer Sarra Kennedy of Fairfield shared her plunge strategy. "As I go in, I'll be thinking the water is 60 degrees," she said. "Of course, when I come out, it will feel more like 20. I need photographic evidence to prove my feat to friends."
For Cindy DeGirolamo, a resident of the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, still reeling from the elementary school shootings there Dec. 14, the experience had other significance. Besides helping put a tragic 2012 behind her, she said of the benefit, "We're all trying to help people in any way we can, and this helps children, too."
Meanwhile, Chris Pagnotta, website marketing manager for United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, this year's beneficiary of funds raised by Temple Israel's Freezin' For A Reason event, said he was glad to have the Westport synagogue's support. "We are honored to have been picked as the group's charity this year," he said. "We serve 14,000 adults and children with disabilities. So far, the event has raised almost $34,000."
Pagnotta himself planned to among those taking a dip in the Sound and confessed to being a first-time plunger. "I'm enthusiastic about it, but very concerned about the temperature," he said with a chuckle.
Tom Patterson, the co-captain for the Temple Israel event, was pleased by the turnout. "We have a whole bunch of newcomers, which is great, as we touch different people through the different charities we support," he said.
"I love it. It's not about the money but the opportunity to do something for someone in the community."