175 take plunge against polio

Around 175 people braved the 30-degree cold, some in bikinis and swim shorts, to jump into the ocean and fight against polio at Long Beach on Saturday.

Luckily the tide was low and the sea was calm for the sixth annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” Polar Plunge, part of Rotary International’s ongoing campaign to eradicate polio in our lifetimes.

Gloucester Rotary Club member and event coordinator Kim Spaner had her hands full with walkie talkies and a bouquet of flowers. She thought the day went very well and that the event gets better every year.

“The good news is no nor’easter, no undertows; last year was scary,” she said. “It was a perfect day, perfect tide, and cold.”

“The Rotarians have been working on eradicating polio for a long long time and we only have three countries left so it’s pretty exciting,” Spaner said. According to Rotary International, when it started the fight against polio in 1985, more than 350,000 people in 125 countries were impacted. Today, polio has not been eradicated in only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Wendy Rose, a Rockport Rotarian, was also pleased with the turnout. “Today was incredible. It was very cold,” she said.

The Rotary Club of Rockport set a goal at $2,650 to aid in the district’s goal of raising $125,000, but no one was sure exactly how much money was raised. The plungers last year raised more than $98,000. Rose said it takes a few weeks to tally up. However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a 2-1 match for every dollar raised toward eradication efforts.

Members from Rotary clubs from all over Massachusetts jumped into the Atlantic.

Tom Faulkner, a Salem, New Hampshire, resident, jumped in to raise money for a good cause.

“My toes are probably going to be amputated but other than that I’m good.” Faulkner said as he dried off with a towel and scrambled to get dressed.

Gloucester resident Mike Mullen had raised $3,200 by Saturday and said he had more people pledge verbally but is waiting on those payments. “$3,200 plus verbals puts Team Mullen number one out of 62 clubs,” Mullen said. He was unable to jump in himself due to health concerns, but the issue is dear to him. “It’s important to me because it’s saving lives. They told me last year I saved 20,000,” Mullen said.

Six students in Ipswich Interact, a group from Ipswich High School, participated in the jump and raised $1,000. Member Rudy Dolan said, “It’s all about doing what we can to help other countries in need.”

Anne Lewis, a Rockport Rotarian, was particularly excited about the progress that has been made toward ending polio. “We’re this close to ending polio, but it’s going to take that extra effort to get through so this is wonderful and it raises money district wide,” Lewis said.

Mary Markos may be contacted at 978-675-2708 or mmarkos@gloucestertimes.com.

Read the full article at GloucesterTimes.com.

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