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Record Crowd Turns Out In Westport To Take The Polar Plunge For Charity

Participants raised $70,000 to benefit the Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
Costumed participants get ready to the New Year's Polar Plunge on Thursday morning at Compo Beach in Westport. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
Participants hit the 41-degree water on Thursday morning at Compo. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
Those taking the plunge get a running start on Compo Beach. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
And they run right back out of the water. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
A few participants, including Batman, savor the cold water of Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell
It is a moment of victory to savor for those daring to take the Polar Plunge. Photo Credit: Shauna Mitchell

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Temperatures hovered at just about freezing at Westport's Compo Beach on Thursday morning, but that didn’t stop more than 30 men, women and children from jumping into the icy waters of the Long Island Sound for the town’s eighth-annual Polar Plunge to usher in the New Year.

Participants from Westport and Weston as well as across Fairfield County began fundraising “after Thanksgiving” and raised more than $70,000 for the Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County, a local nonprofit founded in 1956 that provides child mental health services from more than 2000 children each year.

“It feels great, 70 grand, you know,” organizer Tom Patterson of Weston said after taking the icy plunge into the Sound with his son, Ethan. “You can’t even feel the cold.”

Patterson told participants and supporters shortly before rushing into the frigid waters that Thursday was the biggest turnout for the event in its eight years. In total, nearly 100 people participated in the fundraising effort.

At the time of the traditional New Year's Day plunge, the water temperature was about 41 degrees and the air temperature was a freezing 30 degrees.

Jackie Spitzer was one of many who has taken the New Year's plunge before. She was at Compo Beach on Thursday with her husband and two of her three children.

“I’m back because it’s such a great charity,” Spitzer told the Daily Voice. “We’re doing it for people who have real issues, and this is just a blip in my day, being cold.”

While the Jan. 1 fundraiser drew many Polar Plunge faithful, the proof that the charitable event is still growing comes from the many first-timers, including Doug Hempstead of Norwalk.

“I don’t know if I’ll go in jumping, I may go in screaming and running,” Hempstead said, laughing. He told the Daily Voice that when he was first told about the Polar Plunge, he thought the idea was “crazy.”

But crazy or not, Hempstead said, it’s a great way to raise money for a worthy cause.

“This really shows the community coming together for kids, our kids,” Patterson said. “Nothing feels better than 70 grand for these kids.”

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