For some, the Oakland Beach Carousel Foundation’s (OBCF) annual Seawall Splash is a New Year’s Day ritual.
Take the Shuster family of Warwick, for example.
“We do it every year!” George Shuster, an attorney, exclaimed after leading his wife Stephanie and daughters Greta, 9, and Georgia, 6, into Greenwich Bay at noon on Monday. “We do it every year; we can’t stop now.”
Shuster said this was his fifth dip into the frigid water that he thought was probably about 41 degrees.
“It’s not that the water’s that cold, it’s the temperature and [stiff] breeze that really hits you,” he added.
For Jilly Caruso, 10, who was dressed in an LA Lakers shirt and pajama bottoms, it was her first-ever New Year’s Day test.
While Caruso wanted to do what her dad Rick Caruso and hundreds of other people have done since 2009 when the brief swim began, Monday took on additional meaning.
“I wanted to help a little infant girl,” Jilly Caruso said while covering up with a warm, woolen blanket. “I wanted to be in the first Punk Rock Plunge.”
After she participated in the Seawall Splash and warmed up as much as possible, Jilly Caruso joined more than 150 people of all ages and went back into the freezing water during the first annual Punk Rock Plunge at 1:30 p.m.
Although the exact dollar figure wasn’t available, Anthony Soly, who chaired the first ever Punk Rock Plunge, said all proceeds would benefit the Angelina Rose Cox Fund that was recently created to help the family during their infant daughter’s battle with Type I SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy).
“We had people come from all over the place ... New Hampshire, New York,” Soly said. “It was incredible. We probably raised over $8,000 for Angelina’s family. They don’t have medical insurance that covers this type of condition.”
As for the Seawall Splash, for people like Jerry McLaughlin, a.k.a. Poseidon the Greek God of the sea, the New Year’s Day swim is about maintaining a tradition for family and friends with the end result being an operating carousel.
For others, it’s the curiosity of a dive into the deep on New Year’s Day, while even for other folks it’s a test of one’s mettle against nature’s elements like below freezing air temperatures and simply running into the freezing waters of Greenwich Bay.
“This is a day more conducive for ice fishing,” mused Ed Ladouceur, a Warwick City Councilman-elect who will represent Ward 5. “There are some mighty courageous people here today.”
For people like Doreen Kosciusko and Chuck Hewitt, the Seawall Splash is a way to continue their dream of some day having a real, honest-to-goodness carousel built at Oakland Beach.
Kosciusko, who is chairperson of the Oakland Beach Foundation that has a workshop on West Shore Road and is bent on realizing the non-profit organization’s dream, was happy with Monday’s turnout and net result.
“We collected $1,200 today,” Kosciusko said, noting that 39 people registered but that there were probably 75 or so people who went into the water. “That came from people actually plunging into the water and raffle sales. It all goes to our foundation.”
For Hewitt, the OBCF’s artistic director and head carver, results from the Seawall Splash mean that the Foundation can move closer to its goal of completing all the horses for the proposed carousel.
“We only need seven more horses,” said Hewitt while drying off from his trek into the freezing water. “Every little bit helps. And once we’ve got all the horses, we can begin working on the mechanism [for the carousel].”
This year’s Seawall Splash took on a new look, as all events were held outside because of the unique fundraiser being hosted by Marley’s on the Beach for the Angelina Rose Cox Fund.
“We had music and a hot chocolate vendor,” Kosciusko said. “Our special thanks to Amy ‘Elvis’ Beth and disc jockey Trey. He really impressed everyone with the music he played; especially those old Beach Boys tunes that kind of helped take away some of the day’s cold!”