WESTON, Conn. Westonite Tom Patterson was dared five years ago by his friend Lee Caney to jump into the freezing waters of Long Island Sound. Not one to back down, Patterson did it but with one stipulation - it had to be for a good cause.
The two men, along with several friends, created the Temple Israel Polar Plunge , where every New Years Day, at 11 a.m., they gather on the shore of Compo Beach in Westport and jump into the Sound. In the first year of the plunge, they raised nearly $14,000. And what started off as an innocent dare has turned into a charity-making machine. In the five years that they have jumped into the Sound, they have raised nearly $300,000.
I think its pretty great. Were just a couple of dads wanting to do something good for the community, he said.
With every plunge they take at Compo Beach, the amount of money donated by area residents keeps getting bigger and bigger, Patterson said. By raising that much money in such a short period of time, it just gets me excited for whats to come. I cannot wait until we hit the $1 million mark, he said.
Temple Israel Polar Plunge has raised nearly $50,000 for the 2012 plunge, with all proceeds going toward the Hole in the Wall Gang , which was founded by longtime Westport resident Paul Newman. The organization provides year-round camps to children coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses.
Every year, Temple Israel Polar Plunge supports a different charity. If we keep doing it like this, I know that one day we will soon touch the heart of every member of the community. I know that soon everyone will be able to have a connection with what we are trying to do, he said.
As the years go by, Patterson said, the jump is never gets any easier.
Listen, I am from Pittsburgh and I never thought I would be jumping into freezing water for fun. But its actually really fun and were doing it to help a lot of other people. That is what gets you psyched up, that is what gets you ready to jump in, he said.
You dont have to be a member of the Temple Israel Polar Plunge to take the leap on Sunday, Everyone can come on down - its a great way to start off the New Year and I heard it has cured a couple of hangovers, he said.
If anyone is interested in donating to the Temple Israel Polar Plunge, they can click here , or if you are interested jumping into the sound yourself you can contact Patterson at 917-653-7384 for details.
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