By Bill Lawyer
A lively bunch of “fun-loving” people of all ages welcomed in the new year by participating in the 16th annual Ray’s Polar Plunge on the ice-crusted, rock-solid sands of Rye Town Park’s Oakland Beach.
Held at high noon, on the bright but frigid first day of 2018, the temperature topped out at a wind-chill peak of 8 degrees. While a number of plunges around the County were cancelled, there were some 75 participants and another 75 non-plunging supporters at Ray’s Plunge, all determined to support a good cause.
The “crazies for a cause” were actually sponsoring as many as four causes. The original one being the MAC Angels, which supports families with ALS. The other three are the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Soul Ryeders, and Outreach Resurrection.
Plunge organizer Phil Gormley thanked everyone for braving the cold and helping raise over $15,000.
Before participants braved the frigid water, Gormley, whose sister Claire died from ALS in 2009, read a poem, “Life in Reverse” by Jay Curtis, a well-known creative force at CBS who was diagnosed with ALS in 2015.
<“My grandfather taught me to sign my name.
My mother taught me to tie my shoes.
My father taught me to throw a knuckleball.
Skills gone like a seeded lawn under spring snow.
Look for me in your rearview mirror, as I live the rest of my life in reverse.”>
First-time plunger Lisa Miller said, “I was cold and nervous, but as Phil read aloud to us a comforting stillness took hold. And then I was swept up in the crowd and the excitement. The Plunge was what we had come to do, and there was no backing out now. We all yelled “Freedom,” signifying freedom from the suffering that ALS inflicts.”
The general consensus of bystanders was shock and awe as the participants stripped down to their plunge attire, including a few hearty souls down to just bikinis or briefs.
When the plunge was done, participants were quick to put back on at least one layer of clothing. Aside from not wanting to freeze on the spot, the plungers were motivated by not wanting to be late to the after-party at Rye Grill & Bar that started at 1.
Photos by Russ Gold