PORT JERVIS – The air temperature was 4 degrees, and wind chill factor minus 11, as approximately 40 daring swimmers plunged into the Delaware River at Port Jervis first thing Saturday morning.
Port Jervis Fire Department chiefs and crew provided these numbers, along with a river temperature reading of 32 degrees, as they carved out a rectangle clearing from ice coating the Delaware River. This was the designated 9 a.m. plunge area along West End Beach.
Ice chunks flowed swiftly past as the 40-plus participants “plunged” to varying depths, some knee-deep and some all the way under. This was all within close watch of the fire department Water Operations Team members who were stationed to cover all areas of the plunge area.
Many who took part in this Third Annual Polar Plunge were first-time participants. An equally large percentage were return participants. One of the youngest repeat participants was nine-year-old McKinley Fuller, who has participated in all three of Port’s Polar Plunges. She said this year’s temperatures gave her a different water and land experience, but she still enjoyed it a lot and is glad to be able to help through this event.
“It was really fun. It just felt like I was walking on nails when I first got back on the beach,” McKinley said. “But I really enjoyed it.”
Roaring fire pits helped warm the participants after they changed into dry clothing and shoes or huddled in bathrobes and blankets many brought with them.
First time participant Krista Haley teamed up with her husband and a friend to take the plunge. Haley’s husband, Eric Haley, is an RN in Bon Secours Community Hospital, and their friend Lisa Everele is a volunteer with Port Jervis Ambulance Corps. Krista said all three enjoyed the event and may repeat the experience in the future. “It was so much fun. It was awesome,” she said.
All funds raised will benefit Port’s Water Operations Team and Port Jervis Recreation Department, co-sponsors of the event. Some of the funds have been designated for use by the recreation department for summer lifeguard certifications for the summer programs.