Want to do something most people consider crazy, have fun, all the while helping Ellary, a three-year-old little girl who lives with Nemaline Moypathy?
She is fed through a G-tube, has a tracheal tube for breathing (which requires a nurse at her bedside all night so her parents can sleep) and other medical concerns. Ellary has just recently learned how to get around in her wheelchair and, other than having some tubes to contend with, is pretty proud of her maneuvering skills.
Ellary's wish is to fly in an airplane and to be whisked off to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida to meet the princesses.
Just remember, the water temperature hovers around 43 degrees.
According to Charlie Wright, a founding Polar Bear, 500 to 800 strong join in the frosty festivities while another 5,000 to 8,000 watch each year.
This year, the Polar Bears will be joined by Maciek Palacha, a Polish Naval Officer currently assigned to the Newport Naval War College, Kevin White and Allyson Kinch, who are getting married on New Years Eve and their whole wedding party have pledged to join the Polar Bears for their New Years Day Swim.
This is all to raise money for A Wish Come True. Jessica Castilglia and Kris Cummings, who will be celebrating their first day as man and wife, are also signed up on for the plunge.
Just how did this big to-do come about?
"They began the tradition of plunging in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean on New Years Day in 1969," explained Wright. "For several years the Polar Bears have been combining the event with a fund raiser for A Wish Come True, Inc."
Wright offers some tips about the plunge: It is better when the plunge takes place at high tide so plungers need not walk as far to get wet; Don't encourage splashing because you don't want to get wet before you have to; Be careful marching along the uneven beach bed because if you step into a hole, you might get an unexpected soaking.
Now, Wright has been doing this since 1969 and his doctor says whatever he is doing seems to be good for him. Both his cholesterol and blood pressure are in good shape. This is not a once-a-year affair for Wright and the Polar Bears; They meet every Sunday at noon at Eastons Beach during the cold weather for a dip. Usually four to twelve people show up, he said.
As for the fundraising, Wright said he likes "a hands-off-the-money-policy," so folks with buckets will be circulating at the party and at the Plunge to collect contributions.
Barry Botelho who operates the Easton's Beach Snack Bar and will be selling hot chocolate, clam chowder and coffee at the event, said proceeds are donated to the A Wish Come True foundation as well.
A Wish Come True, Inc. is Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts' oldest wish-granting organization, according to a statement prepared by the foundation. Celebrating 28 years of granting wishes to local children - having been founded in 1982 in Tiverton, RI - A Wish Come True grants wishes to medically-qualified children ages 3 through 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. A Wish Come True receives no funding from national organizations and relies solely on the local community and events such as the Newport Polar Bears Plunge for support.
New Years Day Plunge Tips:
Get to the Beach early (11 am or so) because parking lots fill up fast!
1 - The Plar Bears have linked up with A-Wish-Come-True. There is no registration or minimum fee, just show up and enjoy.
2 - Wear something on your feet, there are a lot of broken shells on the beach and in the water. Be careful!
3 - Have someone nearby with a large towel; I don't think I have to explain this one.
4 - Charlies Wright says they all try to go in at noon as a matter of "old tradition." They meet at the ramp in front of the rotunda, and then WALK in--no running and most of all, no splashing!
5 - Afterwards, go to the for the great party and free buffet. Also, this is where the Polar Bears raise the main funds for A WISH COME TRUE. (They usually walk up the beach to the ABC where there will be raffles, an auction, food, music and fun for the whole family).
Rosemary Bowers, Founder & Executive Director of A-Wish-Come-True said, "If people would like to take the plunge, come down and watch, or volunteer to help that day ,they can get in touch with me at 401-624-7673 or by email - Rosemary@awishcometrue.org."
For more information about the Polar Bears, visit www.newportpolarbears.bravehost.com