Nine years ago Pete Porcaro thought it would be fun to plunge into the Long Island Sound on New Year's Day. When he mentioned it to some of his friends, they suggested that he make it a fundraiser.
His stepsister, Gloria Weisenfeld, had just passed away from leukemia, so that year, he and five other friends jumped into the icy water and raised money for the Leukemia Foundation.
The second year, Porcaro was by himself. He couldn't find anyone that would take the icy plunge with him. Then he met a stranger on the boardwalk, and they talked about taking the plunge into the Sound.
Porcaro said, "I didn't want it not to happen that year, even if I had to do it alone." This stranger had done it before, and said if he was still around the next time Porcaro was going into the water, he would join him. But as Porcaro was about to get out of the water, this stranger stripped down to his jeans, and jumped in. Porcaro had no idea who the man was, and he never got him name, but he was glad he did not have to go it alone.
After that second year, his friends, family and coworkers have supported his cause.
This year, about 70 people came to support the Polar Plunge and about 30 people jumped into the Long Island Sound at Sunken Meadow.
Three years ago, Paumanok got involved because Porcaro's wife Maria works as an administrative assistant for Paumanok, and the school had a permanent sub, Melisand Schwartz, who had leukemia, so they decided to help raise funds.
That first year that Paumanok participated, it bitter cold, with howling winds so severe, they had to be shielded behind the buildings even before making it onto the beach.
"The weather was 16 degrees that year," said Porcaro. He thought after that bitter first experience for Paumanok that they would never be back. He was wrong; the turnout from Paumanok has grown stronger each year, with Paumanok's principal Mrs Kendra Cooper leading the way.
Last year, fifth grader Noah Dooley heard from his teacher Ms. Darlene Utz that she joined in the Plunge over winter break. He thought that it was a cool idea, and wanted to participate.
This year, they are raising money for a very brave seven-year-old, James Tourin, who is battling juvenile diabetes. So Noah raised $100 for the JDRF, and jumped into the water without hesitation. His twin brother Patch Dooley and their friend Steven Worshoufsky gave support from the beach. Next year Noah wants to get a whole team together to join him in the water.
James' grandfather Rick Tourin jumped into the water this New Year's Day, and wasn't a bit cold, even after taking the dip into the Long Island Sound. Tourin had the biggest grin posing next to his grandson for some family photos.
The actual dip only takes a few seconds, and then the celebration begins: People brought hot drinks, homemade soup and food.
The celebration will take place again next year: Same time, same place--New Year's Day, 3 p.m. at Sunken Meadow Park.
A hundred percent of the monies raised for this event this year will be donated to JDRF. Donations can be made to JDRF; please put the name "James Tourin" in the memo section of the check.
Checks can be mailed to the event coordinator, Marie Porcaro, administrative assistant at Paumanok at: 66 Wesleyan Rd, Smithtown, NY 11787.