Sandwich ‘Plunge’ Raises More Than $10 K For ALS Care Services

By KAREN B. HUNTER, Jan 2, 2019

Polar plungers enter the water at Town Neck Beach in Sandwich for the New Year’s Day polar plunge to raise money for Compassionate Care ALS.

A small group of people who arrived early, some with coffee in hand, huddled against the wind at the registration table at Town Neck Beach on New Year’s Day, ready and waiting for the first Sandwich polar plunge to begin.

“As of four days ago, 34 people had registered to plunge,” organizer Steven L. Chalke said, “but we expect many more to come. In the polar plunge business, people like to see what the weather is like before committing.”

Sandwich’s polar plunge—which had raised $10,000 before Tuesday’s registration fees and donations were counted—was initiated to raise money for Compassionate Care ALS, an organization that offered critical support to the Chalke family when Mr. Chalke’s wife, Lisa M. Chalke, was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or ALS.

She died at home in October.

As he waited for plungers to arrive at the beach, greeting many with hugs when they got there, Mr. Chalke referred to 2018 as a “bittersweet year.” Although his wife was ill with ALS, two of his five daughters were married during the year, one just days after her mother died.

Despite breezy conditions, the plungers got lucky this year: the air temperature was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, the water, a moderate 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

As noon approached, cars pulled into the parking lot one after another, and people got out carrying towels or wrapped in bathrobes over swim suits.

The band of plungers were committing to launch themselves into the cold water for a variety of reasons.

New Year’s Day “plungers” make their way over the rocks toward the waters of Town Neck Beach.

Thirteen-year-old Corey J. Vendetti of Brewster was taking the plunge “for the thrill of it,” and to “give back,” he said.

Patricia R. Kenyon of Sandwich and two of her family members, Terri Stimson and Tom Stimson of Cicero, New York, were plunging for the first time. “I saw it in the paper, and it was in our town and for a good cause,” she said. “Why not bring the in-laws to a polar plunge?”

Ten-year-old Olivia L. Ring of Sandwich said her father’s cousin died of ALS at the age of 42. Despite being an avid swimmer with the Cape Cod Swim Club, she said she was a little nervous.

“I’m here to support the family and ALS,” Lois M. Sylvia of Sandwich said. “Lisa [Chalke] was a blessing to so many people.”

Lisa M. Kelleher of Sandwich, who had never done a polar plunge before, said she was nervous about it. Asked why she signed up, she said, “I’m here to offer community support. And I have friends who are suffering with ALS.”

“Lisa was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Frank M. McLoughlin, who knew Ms. Chalke from singing with her in the choir at Corpus Christi Church in Sandwich. “She was always helpful to me when I was a new member of the choir; she always reached out to me. She was just a nice person,” he said.

Mr. McLoughlin was not plunging, but had come to be present, standing with his walker at the beach to watch, in Ms. Chalke’s memory.

From somewhere in the crowd a woman could be heard saying, “What a great day! Lisa is smiling on us.”

Just before noontime, Mr. Chalke stepped to the front of the crowd and asked if everyone was ready. The crowd cheered.

There was a short countdown, then the plungers charged into the water. Most made it a quick dip and splashed back to shore, headed to the warmth of their towels. There were smiles all around.

Maureen Condon, Mary Alice Moynihan, Lisa Denmark, Trish Corey, and Linda Vantine get ready for the New Year’s dip.

All of the money raised by the plunge will go directly to Compassionate Care ALS (website: ccals.org) to benefit its mission, which is to support people diagnosed with ALS, their families and their communities as they navigate the complexities, both physical and emotional, associated with the disease.

The nonprofit organization provides resources such as equipment, educational workshops, Medicare/Medicaid assistance, and guidance for living with ALS, caregiving, and end-of-life issues.

There was a short countdown, then the plungers charged into the water. Most made it a quick dip and splashed back to shore, headed to the warmth of their towels. There were smiles all around.

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