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Polar plunges raise cold hard cash for charity

Updated 5:16 pm, Tuesday, January 1, 2013

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  • Sean Cahill, left, and Jill Rutsky, right, run into the Long Island Sound Tuesday morning, Jan. 1, 2013, at Compo Beach in Westport, Conn., during Temple Israel's 6th annual Polar Plunge. The plunge raised money for United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. Photo: Lindsay Perry, Perry / Stamford Advocate
    Sean Cahill, left, and Jill Rutsky, right, run into the Long Island Sound Tuesday morning, Jan. 1, 2013, at Compo Beach in Westport, Conn., during Temple Israel's 6th annual Polar Plunge. The plunge raised money for United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. Photo: Lindsay Perry, Perry

 

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WESTPORT -- It was so cold at Compo Beach New Year's Day even the dogs out for a walk wore coats on top of their coats.

Mark Meyer, on the other hand, stood around in wet swim trunks, air-drying his body even as other swimmers who greeted 2013 with a dip in icy Long Island Sound trembled beneath towels and robes.

"It's like an ice-pack therapy," said Meyer, a town resident accustomed to working outdoors during the winter on irrigation and tree projects. "To most people this is brutal, but I'm conditioned to it ... Three years ago, I'd be hard-pressed to talk to you without shivering."

Two separate groups of daredevils gathered at Compo Beach Tuesday morning for the annual polar plunges that raise money for area charities.

Team Mossman Triathlon Club kicked off the festivities at 10 a.m. Upward of 50 swimmers jumped into the frigid water to help raise $3,000 for Westport-based Save the Children.

Organizer Robin Myers of Southport said this was the coldest plunge in the event's 10-year history with the water temperature a chilly 44 degrees.

"With the air outside and the water, it's very cold," Myers said.

Sarra Kennedy of Fairfield only decided Monday to participate.

"I was at work yesterday and thinking about the new year and I wanted to leave so much behind and get a fresh start," Kennedy said. "I'm really happy I did it."

Melissa Pavloff of Monroe and her daughters, 12-year-old Michelle and 10-year-old Allison, spent 2012 working up the courage to participate in a New Year's dip.

And when mom thought the experience passed too quickly, her daughters jumped in a second time to help her extend the moment.

"I still can't feel my toes," Michelle Pavloff said.

Melissa Pavloff said particularly in light of the Newtown tragedy, she thought it was appropriate to help raise money for Save the Children.

"With everything that just went on locally, it felt like the right time to kick off the new year in a positive way," she said.

Meyer was among 30 swimmers who ran into the water at 11 a.m. to raise nearly $34,000 for United Cerebral Palsy of New York. This was the sixth annual plunge organized by Temple Israel of Westport.

"This is near and dear to my heart," said Scott Rutsky of Weston, a temple member and event organizer, as he prepared for the swim. "I sit on the board of UCP of New York and my brother is severely disabled."

It was the first polar plunge for Marshall Greenspan, 73, and his son, Mannie Greenspan, 44, of Fairfield.

"We were going to do it last year but I overslept," Mannie Greenspan said as the pair stripped to their bathing suits.

Marshall Greenspan said a cold water swim was on his "bucket list" and he made the most of it, lingering in the Sound longer than most of the others.

"Oh my God, this is insane," muttered one woman watching from the shore.

brian.lockhart@scni.com; 203-414-0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart1