Oakland Beach in Warwick will play host to the 2nd Annual Rhode Island Polar Dip, during which participants plunge into Greenwich Bay to raise money to send families to Camp Sunshine.
Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House will host the after-plunge party, donating space and food for the event this Saturday, when the temperature is expected to be 36 degrees. Registration will begin at 10 a.m., with the plunge scheduled to start at noon.
The Henriques family of Warwick is organizing the event for the second time. The family has volunteered at Camp Sunshine for 10 years, and attended their first plunge five years ago in Virginia. A family they knew from the camp was hosting it.
After taking part in two Virginia plunges and another in Portland, Maine near the camp, the Henriques decided to bring an event to Rhode Island.
“We thought there has never been one in Rhode Island. We need to bring one home,” explained Christina Henriques, who participates in each plunge dressed in costume with her sister Rebecca. “It was a no-brainer for us.”
This year, the goal has been set to raise $20,000 to send 10 Rhode Island families to Camp Sunshine this year. The same amount was raised at last year’s inaugural event, which had 90 plungers. But Christina thinks they could be on track for more. As of Tuesday afternoon, $13,000 had been raised online; Christina explained that at this time last year they had raised only $8,000.
“We already have close to 100 registered to jump. That usually doubles on the day of the event,” she added.
The potential for this event to grow is there; the Virginia event Christina and her family used to attend recently raised $100,000.
The Henriques family has volunteered at Camp Sunshine for 10 years.
“It is a home away from home for us where we have made lifetime friendships with the staff, volunteers and families. These kids and families are truly remarkable and heroes in our eyes,” said Christina. “They come to camp to escape the reality of their illness just to relax and have fun. They bring such joy to our hearts, and we feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing environment.”
Located in Casco, Maine, Camp Sunshine is a national retreat for children experiencing life-threatening illnesses and their families. The camp provides a place for families to relax for a week and escape the extraordinary demands placed on their daily lives. Each session focuses on a different illness, and the program includes housing, meals, on-site medical and psychosocial support, and activities for the whole family.
Christina explained this camp program is unique because the entire immediate family gets to go, and the program allows parents to speak with others who know exactly what they are going through because the weeks are designed for children with specific illnesses.
Located on Sebago Lake, the camp is a year-round program, which is free-of-charge to the families and staffed almost entirely by volunteers. A donation of $2,000 allows one family to spend a week at Camp Sunshine.
“The reality of this event is that the discomfort our plungers feel for just a moment will never compare to what our families go through during the course of their child’s illness,” said Michael Smith, Camp Sunshine director of special events, in a press release. “We are so grateful to everyone who participates in the Rhode Island Polar Dip as they are most definitely ‘Freezin for A Reason.’”
Any Polar Dip participant that raises at least $100 for Camp Sunshine will receive the popular “I DID IT!” event T-shirt.
For those who are not brave enough to submerge themselves in the cold water on Saturday, they can participate in the annual Chicken Dip portion. Chicken Dippers are required to raise a minimum of $100 but only need to “dip” their feet in the water. Smith sees this as the perfect opportunity for Camp Sunshine children to participate themselves.
Following the plunge, participants and guests will enjoy an after party featuring food from a number of local places, and Karaoke and a DJ for entertainment.
“We have so many amazing, amazing local places that are jumping on board to help,” said Christina.
In addition to organizing the event, the Henriques family has created a raffle to help provide additional support to the cause. There are between 30 and 40 raffle baskets and a few silent auction items, including a Red Sox package with tickets to a game.
The family is still accepting donations for the raffle; contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in donating.
To make fundraising and support easier, the Rhode Island Polar Dip has partnered with CrowdRise online fundraising to create a hub for the effort. To donate online, form or join a team for Saturday’s event, visit www.crowdrise.com/RhodeIslandPolarDip2014 or call 207-655-3800.