Why would 28 people choose to plunge into the cold Potomac River on Sunday?
The answer: The annual Freezin’ for a Reason event at Brunswick, where the hardy souls braved 44-degree water to raise funds for charity.
There were angel costumes, a self-made “plunger hat,” and lots of shorts and T-shirts — despite an air temperature in the 50s.
The event raised more than $4,000, said Lee Zumbach, coordinator for the event at Brunswick Campground.
Zumbach, who has been involved in all five years of the plunge, said initially the Brunswick Area Recreation Council tried a dance, but it didn’t draw as many people as organizers had hoped. The group knew of an annual Washington County plunge into the Potomac, and decided to follow suit.
“We don’t mind copying if it works,” Zumbach said.
Funds benefited the Brunswick Food Bank and other charities.
Representing the Food Bank in the plunge were Sandy’s Angels, named for Sandy Cox, who coordinates the Brunswick Food Bank.
Beverly Boranko, Debby Pfiefer, Kim Cable, Jamie Cable and her boyfriend, Bubba Fawley, waded into the water for about 30 seconds to help raise hunger awareness. The women dressed for their dip in tutus, wings and stuffed brassieres.
Randy Derflinger, who has participated in four of the five plunges, raised more than $2,500.
Derflinger sported a “plunger hat,” made from a toilet plunger, along with shorts and a T-shirt.
Wearing a black suit, white shirt and red bow tie, Rich Coullahan of Frederick was easily the most dapper dipper. Coullahan said he has attended the event every year.
“Last year we had ice,” Coullahan said.
His friend Cynthia Delgado said there were ice crystals on Coullahan’s pants when he went into the water last year.
Coullahan doesn’t change clothes after the plunge; he just goes straight to Delgado’s house in Brunswick, he said.
“If anything happens to him, I’m prepared to go in and get him,” Delgado said as she watched from the shore.
There were plenty of rescue crews on hand. Matt Hoffman, a diver for the Swift Water Rescue Team of Brunswick Ambulance and Fire Co., donned a wet suit and was in the water ready to help if needed. Other crew members were in a boat just a few feet away. On shore were an ambulance and other emergency personnel.
Most remarked that the river was high and swift this year. But the water wasn’t as cold this year, Zumbach said. Last year the river was icy, the year before there was snow on the ground and in years before that it was windy, he said.
City Administrator Rick Weldon said he wanted to dive in but was taking antibiotics and couldn’t participate this year. He did, however, provide music for the water partygoers. Weldon played recorded music — from seasonal favorites to oldies rock — on a sound system he brought from home.
Brian LaSorsa of the National Weather Service said the warmest New Year’s Day in recent years was in 2005 at 68 degrees; the coolest was minus 6 in 1968.