An Updated Polar Plunge Story for 2016

I have a blog, which means I have an official place to tell long stories like this! Haha.  I’m using “Her Voice Goes Up…” for a personal reason today – your indulgence is appreciated. 🙂

An Updated Polar Plunge Story for 2016

I tell the same story every year because I remember it very vividly.  When I first got the email about the Camp Sunshine polar plunges in the fall of 2009, I dismissed the idea pretty quickly – even though there was an event in my area – thinking, “There’s no way I would ever do that.”  Then a few weeks later, I was on the beach in Barbados for Thanksgiving, and I realized, “Of course, I could do that!”

And I did.

Five times!!! **


Top right (2014) and middle right (2015) photos by David Madison Photography

I began my association with Camp Sunshine through the New England Kiwanis Family in 2000. In my friend Katie’s memory, I have volunteered there for the past seven summers for a one week-long session each year.  Although I always knew that Camp Sunshine was awesome, it wasn’t until my first volunteer experience in 2009 that I truly understood the benefit of Camp Sunshine and how amazing a place, a program, a concept it really is.  Camp Sunshine, on Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine, is a retreat for critically-ill children and their families.  Families come from all over the country to enjoy Camp.  Families attend week-long or weekend sessions and escape their day-to-day challenges for a few days.  Families pay nothing to come to Camp Sunshine; this is why donations are so important.  Sessions take place all year long, not only in the summer.  Families can simply be together in a beautiful setting; it is an escape and a release from the stress of illness, medical worries, bills and all of the other truly unimaginable things that come with a cancer (or other serious illness) diagnosis, especially for a child.

I jumped into a freezing lake in Reston, Virginia, five times, and I raised money each winter since 2010 for Camp Sunshine.  (I’ve only jumped five times – from 2011 until 2015 – because there was a snowstorm the first year in 2010 and I could not make the rescheduled date.)   My fundraising total over the six years is $9,154.46 (!!), and I look forward to taking that number past the $10,000 mark in 2016.

But, here’s where my story changes.  The day after the plunge last year, I told my friends that I was not sure if I would jump in 2016.  They did not take that very seriously, but I kept saying that I had a feeling I would not be doing it.  I was thinking of nothing when I said this; it was only a feeling.

Then six months later, in August, as my volunteer week at Camp Sunshine began, I blindly committed, without any prior discussion or thought, to run a 10K for Camp Sunshine – the Beach 2 Beacon race in Portland, Maine.  Camp Sunshine gets numbers from this race each year, and the people who use those numbers get them for free in return for fundraising for Camp.  My friends and I were talking about it, and I said, “Okay. I’ll do it,” and then we took a photo.  And that was that.  It was settled.  Later that night, it came up with someone else who had run the same race the day before, and it became real.



Just as quickly as I decided in 2009 that I would jump in a frozen lake to raise money for Camp Sunshine, I decided to run (to be real, it will likely be a mix of running and walking) a 10K in August 2016 to raise money for Camp Sunshine.

I still get tears in my eyes when I think about the mom who told me at Camp Sunshine in 2014, “This is exactly what we needed after the year we had. We feel like we have it together again” or the comment from a parent in 2013: “Our lives have totally changed since our son’s diagnosis. Thanks for the opportunity to feel normal again.”  Last year, a mom told us, “My son is not the leukemia kid here. He’s just a kid.”

And so, this is my story about why I am not doing the polar plunge in 2016 and why, instead, I’m going to try something new and do something hard and run a 10K for Camp Sunshine.  What I know for sure is that it won’t be as hard as the challenges faced by kids diagnosed with cancer (or other critical illnesses) or even as hard as the challenges faced by parents and siblings of kids diagnosed with cancer.  I can do hard things, and I’m especially willing to do so when it’s a good cause like this.
Wish me luck on August 6!!


** Some fun polar plunge weather stats:

  • Year 1, 2011 – air was 36 degrees and water was 32 degrees
  • Year 2, 2012 – air was 44
  • Year 3, 2013 – this one was the coldest (my hair froze when I got out!!) with the air temp at 25-30 degrees and the water at 35 degrees
  • Year 4, 2014 – air was 48 degrees and water was 33 degrees (with 5 inches of ice on it that had to be cut before we could jump!)!  My friend RJ (a cancer survivor I met at Camp Sunshine when he was ten) plunged for the first time this year and described the water as “1000 needles going into my body.” So real.
  • Year 5, 2015 – air was 45 degrees and water was 33. Four inches of ice were cut before we jumped!



I will still be part of this year’s Virginia Polar Dip on February 6 – but only as a volunteer this year.  If you’d like to donate specifically to someone jumping into a freezing cold lake, please look at the fundraising pages for my friend Gail or Team Mathias.

 The 10K is on August 6, and I’ll have a fundraising site that I’ll share when it gets closer. The process for donating will be the same as it has been for the polar plunge.  

 Thank you to everyone who has generously and enthusiastically supported my Freezin’ for a Reason efforts since 2010.  It is because of everyone’s kindness that my grand total is an amazing $9,154.46, and I’m very grateful.  I see first-hand every summer how this money gets put to good use and know the difference it makes.



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