The time of year has come for Warwick’s Mentor Rhode Island to start preparing to get their toes wet…and then to get them tapping. Mentor RI is a local nonprofit organization dedicated …
The time of year has come for Warwick’s Mentor Rhode Island to start preparing to get their toes wet…and then to get them tapping. Mentor RI is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the expansion of quality mentoring services for Rhode Island’s youth, a statewide expert in the field. Their mission is to ensure youth have access to the motivational and supportive relationships they need to grow into confident and successful adults. President and CEO Jo-Ann Schofield has been with the institution for 25 years, CEO for nine of those. She explained that as Mentor RI is a nonprofit organization, fundraising is a necessary component to success. In the upcoming months their two biggest, and basically only, annual events will be taking place.
Jan. 1, 2023, marks the annual Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge at Goddard State Park Beach. For the past 12 years Mentor RI has partnered with Warwick’s own Laid-back Fitness to put together the adventurous and entertaining event. The course is a half-mile long, mostly on the beach, with eight to nine obstacles ending with a plunge in Narragansett Bay.
Schofield credits Ryan McGowan of Laid-back Fitness as “the mastermind” behind creating and facilitating the ninja-style obstacourse.
McGowan explains that some of the hurdles can be repeats of the past but that he keeps it, “exciting and different every year.”
“The participants go out in waves every 15 minutes starting at 11a.m. In groups if they want. It is suitable for all ages and levels…it is just really a fun family atmosphere,” said McGowan.
For those joining who are not interested in doing the course, there is the option to solely take a New Year’s Day dunk at noon. There are generally around 100 to 150 clam dippers, definitely more if it is a warmer day, and hundreds more that show up just to witness the craziness. Those courageous enough to give it go will be rewarded, with bragging rights of course, a bag with promotional items from the sponsors and a long sleeve shirt to remind them of the daring feat they have accomplished.
While the Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge Fundraiser usually nets around $10,000, it is not the biggest of the two Mentor RI annually orchestrates. That would be the Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring gala event every year at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. The lively celebration typically raises $100,000 for the organization. Last years’ total topped off at $102,000 with Schofield simply describing it as “huge.” 2023 will be the organizations 16th year and they are still recruiting dancers as the roster is not yet full. Schofield says they ask a lot of people, people that believe in the mission of Mentor RI and are open to putting themselves out there.
So far celebrity dancers for next year’s soiree include Terri Brophy, Greenwood Credit Union; Alicia Coppa, Amica; Kayla Gagnon, Dean Bank; Andrew Hogan, NextHome-Ocean State Realty Group; Caroline M Johnson, VA Boston Healthcare System; Kassie Hawkins Lindley, Independent; Matt Kasenga, Amgen, and Jean Salera-Vieira, Lifespan. There is a strong need for willing male dancers, and those without stage fright as the crowd is somewhere between five to six hundred people. Celebrity dancers are paired with a professional ballroom dancer from The Dancing Feeling and receive 10 lessons that start in January. They must commit to raise a minimum of $2,500. The pair that raises the highest amount wins the coveted People’s Choice Award.
Dancer Terri Brophy, Vice President of Human Resources at Greenwood Credit Union, is really setting her sights on capturing the aforementioned trophy.
“I really want to get the People’s Choice Award – I’m reaching out to all kinds of people. I am watching how much the other dancers are raising, I am really motivated to get that.” Brophy says that while she is not a dancer, she is beyond excited to dance and has already started going to open beginner lessons on Sundays at The Dancing Feeling. She said that all this dancing has made her reminiscent of dancing the box step with her 93-year-old father at her wedding. The event will be held March 31 with attendees being treated to dinner, a silent auction and, of course, the dance competition itself. Schofield kicked up her heels one year and proudly says, “This fundraiser is such a great night, it is so much fun.”
Mentor RI as a collective is looking forward to these upcoming occasions and to the comradery and happiness the events bring. Schofield thinks of the Mentor RI staff as family, with most members having worked and stayed for years. She says the staff has doubled in size in the last year and even the newer people feel that the work they do is part of something bigger.
It has not been an easy time for the group as they lost one of their own, suddenly, this past fall. When beloved Warwick Program Coordinator and employee of 23 years, Pam Sherman, did not show for work on Oct. 12, everyone worried something was drastically wrong.
“She loved her job, it was a major joy in her life, and she loved this particular event that was happening that day.” Schofield recalls they called in a wellness check that confirmed their worst fears, Pam had passed. The loss has devastated the remaining staff members.
“It has been very hard,” Schofield said.
She shares a fond memory from one particular year at the Clam Dip where Pam wore a red multi-layered gown into the chilly water just to be funny.
“It was not until she was wet that we realized how heavy, cold and clingy the dress would become. It was a team effort getting her out of the water and out of the dress while laughing so hard.”
Schofield will be plunging at the Frozen Clam Dip on Jan. 1, something she does every year.
She, as many who brave the winter water do, chronicles the experience as, “invigorating and cleansing…it feels like a fresh start.” She looks ahead to it as a “new beginning” and invites all others to join. Anyone interested in taking part in the Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge can register on the Mentor RI website: (mentorri.org) Tickets for Dancing With The Stars of Mentoring are on sale now and are also available for purchase on the website: (mentorri.org/dancing2023).
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