Hundreds of spectators, some bundled in polar fleece and wool caps, turned out Saturday to see daring, bighearted people get soaking wet and cold for a special cause.
Participants could jump in alone or in small groups; some were in costumes, others donned swimsuits, gingerly toeing the edge of a small floating dock before jumping into the water with flare. Each participant pledged funding for their willingness to jump into a lake in the middle of winter.
“Wooo! I’m the crazy one. It’s freezing,” said Jennifer El Khouri, dripping wet and slightly shivering after she and her friend, Charlene Miguel, got out of the water. They were one of the many teams that defied 40-degree temperatures to take the brief plunge.
“We jump every year in memory of my dear friend’s daughter … who passed from leukemia at just 4 years old,” El Khouri said.
Many participants said they were pleased to experience the momentary discomfort of wet, biting cold to help children attend Camp Sunshine in Sebago Lake, Maine.
“Camp Sunshine is an amazing camp. It’s the only one in the nation that can do what they do. They have medical staff on site to care for these kids and their families. And the families that go don’t have to pay a penny,” El Khouri said.
The largest fundraising team comprised 28 people from IronNet Cybersecurity, making a splash in small groups to raise nearly $7,000 for the cause.
“We’ve been doing this for three or four years,” said Alex Conn, of Arlington, toweling off after his jump into the water. “It’s a great cause, a fun event.”
One man jumped in the lake holding an unplugged electric guitar. Three others grasped lacrosse sticks as they took the plunge.
All participants jumped under the watchful eyes of five wet-suited members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Dive Team, arrayed in the water in a semicircle.
The organizers set a goal of raising more than $100,000 in the Virginia Polar Dip, which is needed to send 40 families from the mid-Atlantic states to Camp Sunshine.