About 150 hearty volunteers jumped into the icy waters of the YMCA Camp Sloper waters on Saturday, Jan. 18 just an hour before a snowstorm rolled into the state. People were inspired to “take the plunge” at the YMCA’s annual fundraising event, all to raise over $72,000 for youth to attend summer camp.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year where everyone comes together to rally for a cause, and that is sending kids to camp,” said Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA CEO Mark Pooler. “There are so many benefits to having that camp experience. Kids make friends, learn new skills, and spend time outdoors away from the screens. This event allows all kids to go to summer camp, regardless if they can afford it or not.”
Each jumper is expected to raise a minimum of $100, but many individuals and teams go above and beyond the minimum. One camp session costs about $500. Pooler estimated that the funds raised would provide around 140 camp sessions for youth who cannot afford it otherwise. No child is turned away from the Camp Sloper experience.
Fifteen teams came out to show support for the cause this year. The event brought out first-time jumpers as well as veteran jumpers. Many of those who jumped enjoyed a Camp Sloper experience of their own as youth, and wanted to provide that same experience to others in the community.
“The more kids who can go to camp, the better,” said Mike Cozzolino, who jumped with Pack 8 Cub Scouts. Their team shirts read “Freezin’ for a Reason” across the backs. “I was lucky enough to attend Camp Sloper as a kid, and it was such a great thing for me back then.”
YMCA staff member Sarah Pelletier was one of the first-time jumpers. She said she would be back to do it again next year.
“It’s all for such a great cause,” said Pelletier. “One hundred percent of the funds raised go directly into sending kids to Camp Sloper.”
Both the Southington and Cheshire YMCAs join forces for the Sloper Plunge. This is the second year they’ve come together for the plunge. Together, they broke through the fundraising goal of $60,000 by over $12,000.
Many of the teams donned fun costumes and matching outfits to stand out from the crowd. The Lake Compounce team had some of the most eye-catching outfits: the four-member team dressed as a fly, a Venus fly-trap, and two bright yellow flowers.
“We are promoting a new water slide that will be opening in the upcoming season called the ‘Venus Vortex,’” explained Ciara Devantey. “Today we’re here showing support for the YMCA. Half of Lake Compounce is in Southington, so we are here to support a local event that will raise money for a cause.”
This year’s featured team was the members of the “Ben Was Here” foundation, a non-profit that provides community grants in memory of Benjamin Buckley. Ben had a fatal asthma attack at just seven years old. He is remembered as a kind, fun-loving, curious and intelligent boy by his family and friends.
“We’re here today jumping in memory of our son, Ben, who I’m sure is looking down and laughing at us right now,” said Cristin Buckley just moments after coming out of the icy waters. “To do this, on the anniversary of Ben’s fatal asthma attack, has so much meaning to us. This event will provide so many children the opportunity to go to summer camp and we are grateful to be a part of it.”
To learn more about the event or about attending Camp Sloper, visit www.ymcacampsloper.org.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.