Locals brave cold water for 'Arctic Splash'
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Wed., Dec. 7, 2011
About 50 spectators watched as about 15 brave souls ran into the water at Valley Falls Park on Dec. 3 for the third annual “Arctic Splash.” Although not quite literally “Arctic,” the plungers said the 45-degree air temperature made for a certainly-chilly enough experience, as more than $2,000 was raised. The funds will be split between the Hockanum Valley Community Council and the Vernon Parks and Recreation Department's Send a Kid to Camp program.
“It's cold,” said Kyle McDonald, an 11-year-old student at Tolland Middle School – a sentiment shared by several of the waders.
Hal Cummings, Vernon's town attorney, was one of the splashers for a second year, and said he prepared himself for weeks for the icy water. “Eat a lot of food, sleep a lot, and do nothing of any redeeming social value. The idea is to just come down here totally mindless,” Cummings joked. “When we were out of power for 10 days, I was washing and shaving in water colder than this.”
Shawna Schmitzke, director of counseling at Hockanum Valley, won the award for most donations raised. Schmitzke also won the best costume award for her “Winnie the Pooh” outfit, and explained that the choice had nothing to do with keeping herself warm in the cold water.
“I thought there would be like a million Santas,” she said, adding that when a co-worker offered to lend her the Pooh costume, she decided it would be different. None of the splashers wore a Santa costume.
Sean McAulliffe and Jennifer Saunders tied in the raising of donations in the under-18 category.
“It's really good,” said HVCC Executive Director David Engelson. “It helps us out – whatever we get.”
Engelson added that the food pantry at HVCC is getting a good amount of donations so far this holiday season, but demand is also high. “I'm trying to take care of 800 families for Christmas,” he said.