---- — Close to 400 people took the plunge into Goodyear Lake on Saturday – the most since the jump began 18 years ago, according to organizers.
Some say they do it for the adrenaline rush or for the thrill, but most take the leap into icy-cold water because it is for a good cause. The event benefits children with medical needs. Funds are also given to the Portlandville Methodist Church (which shared its money with three adults), Catskill Area Hospice and the Milford Fire Department.
According to jump organizer Jamie Waters, this year’s fundraiser raised more money than ever before. He said more than $106,000 was donated – which surpassed last year’s total by nearly $6,000.
“We had great attendance and great weather,” Waters said. “The ice was decent enough to do what we needed to get done. I would have liked to see more ice so that more people could have come out on the ice, but Mother Nature had other ideas this year. I would have felt a lot better if there were three or four more inches, but it was better than it was last year.”
Only a handful of participants were allowed on the ice at a time, and spectators were asked to watch from atop a hill.
According to Waters, Ed Gwilt of Cooperstown raised the most funds this year. With the Delaware Otsego Corp., the Cooperstown-based railroad company where Gwilt works, matching his funds Gwilt brought in $8,378, Waters said.
Waters said his 14-year-old daughter, Mataiah, raised more than $5,000 with no matching funds.
“That is pretty good for a teenager,” he said.
Many participants come back year after year to endure the frigid temperatures for the cause.
Victor Erway of Fly Creek is one of those committed jumpers, saying this marked his 16th year taking the plunge. He said once he did it once, he became hooked.
“I’ve been to the end ceremony (where a check is given out to recipients), and it just touched me, so I said I am going to continue on,” he said. “I became very good friends with Brenda and Jamie Waters (organizers of the event), so I do it every year and help cut the hole (in the ice).”
Erway said people have called him crazy for jumping into the freezing-cold water in the middle of winter, but he said he loves doing it.
“It is a shock when you get in there, but when I come out I am good to go,” he said. “It is my halfway point for the winter, and I am revitalized and ready to go.”
According to Erway, the key to having a good jump is having no wind. This year was pretty ideal when it came to that, he said.
Steven Meade agreed with Erway about the wind, saying, “The less wind the better.”
This marked Meade’s third year taking the plunge. The Milford resident said once he did it, he became addicted. He was one of the participants who try to find a creative way to enter the water each year. This year Meade chose to do a backflip.
Daryl Birdsall of Otego has been jumping for 12 years, and partnering on the ice blocks with his niece Monica for nine. He said he comes back every year because it is a good cause, and it provides an adrenaline rush.
Birdsall said he began participating because of his mother.
“My mom actually jumped, and I could not let my mom outdo me,” he said.
“Actually, the first time I jumped was the worst because it was like -25 degrees with the windchill that year,” he added. “In terms of actually hitting the water, I try to do something new each year. This year I did a belly-whopper, and next year it will be something different just to make it interesting.”
Monica sported a banana costume. She said it was to inspire the children and other people to take the plunge.
“It is not as bad as it looks. It is all about just having fun. You just take the pain for a couple of minutes for those who are taking pain for an entire lifetime,” she said.
Gina Dianich of Bloomville jumped with a team of seven in memory of Corrine Salcido, a recipient of last year’s event. Dianich said she is now a “lifer” because when she asked if Salcido could become a recipient she was graciously accepted.
“She was my best friend, and she passed away in September,” she said.
This did not mark Dianich’s first time jumping. She said it was her fourth year making the half-hour drive.
“I just heard about a local great cause to help children and thought it was awesome. I just did it, and then I was hooked,” she said.
When describing the experience, Dianich said she finds it exhilarating.
“People think it is crazy, but for me, for the amount of pain it causes to me is nothing compared to what these children and adults endure,” she said. “I feel I can do my part. I love raising money for charity. I do not think there is anything better.”
Mikayla Fulton and Alisa Bohle jumped in memory of Alisa’s uncle, Marc Bohle. Alisa said she was supposed to be jumping with her uncle, but instead was jumping with a friend. The girls, both of Oneonta, let balloons go (in his memory) as they took the plunge.
It marked Alisa Bohle’s first time participating in the jump and Fulton’s seventh. Fulton said she has been watching people do it since she was a little kid and always wanted to jump.
“I decided when I was 12, I was going to do it,” she said.
Alisa added: “You think it is cold just standing outside the water waiting for your turn, but once you hit the water, your body just freezes up. You just want to move as fast as you can.”
Alisa said she will be back to jump again to carry on her uncle’s legacy.