(Jan. 9, 2015) About 850 participants plunged into the 41-degree Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day during the 21st annual Penguin Swim, a fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin.
“This year’s swim went great and we thank the community for supporting us,” said AGH Development Assistant Heather Trader. “We are looking forward to next year’s event since it will fall on a Friday. It should be bigger and better.”
Swimmers gathered on the beach behind the Princess Royale hotel on 91st Street just before the icy dip.
At 1 p.m., the “penguins” dashed into the chilly ocean, which was just a few degrees colder than the 43-degree air temperature.
Participants came out dressed as penguins, Avatar, Elvis, a huge giraffe, princesses, Batman’s Penguin, and this year even brought an older gentleman into the mix who dressed as baby New Year.
An awards ceremony followed the swim inside the Princess Royale, where participants had the opportunity to warm up.
Awards were presented to the youngest and oldest swimmers, as well as to the top team and individual money-raisers.
The youngest penguin was 1.5-month-old Maddie Gaffney of Selbyville, Del. whose 81-year-old grandfather, Joe Gaffney, was the oldest participant for the second year in a row.
Craig Kettler of Leesburg, Va., raised $3,390 and was named the top adult individual fund raiser for several consecutive years. He has participated in the swim for seven years. Woody “Butch” German of Baltimore, an 11-year swim participant, collected $1,632 in donations, landing him in second place. Robert LeCompte of Columbia, Md. raised $525, which earned him third-place for individual top fundraisers.
In the community group team category, first place was won by Ocean City Ravens Roost No. 44 for donating $9,555. In second place was the Parke Penguins (Ocean Pines), who collected $4,840. The Jamboys out of Baltimore raised $1,350.69 and were awarded the third-place trophy.
The Bull on the Beach team, which included more than 200 swimmers, was the top business team fund raiser again this year, donating $27,000. During the 21-year history of the event, the Bull on the Beach team has generated more than $377,000 for AGH. The AGH Flapping Flamingos collected $2,661 and Fisher’s Popcorn garnered $1,300 to round out the top three businesses.
Awards were also presented to teams and individuals 18 and younger who collected the most donations. Ben Kettler, Craig’s 15-year-old son, was the top youth fund raiser for the second year, donating $385. Lilliana, 17, and Nicholas Franklin, 12, from Berlin pledged $250 each to finish in second place and Samantha Ewancio, 16, of Berlin raised $200, to win the third-place award.
The top team fund raisers in the 18-and-Under Division was the Polar Patrollers out of Berlin raising $370. Team O’Jettski’s from Ocean City pledged $155 and Stephen Decatur High School’s Connections Club finished out the top three, collecting $100.
In 20 years, the Penguin Swim has raised more than $800,000 for AGH. The goal for the 21st annual swim was $71,500. As of press time, the 2015 Penguin Swim generated well over the goal with $91,000 raised for AGH, and the number is expected to increase because organizers are still counting and taking donations, Trader said.
The hospital has been providing health care to residents of Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties as well as Sussex County, Del., since May 1993.
For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.
- Andrew Foxwell of Ocean City (the penguin for nine years)
- at the 21st annual AGH Penguin Swim Thursday, January 1, 2105.
- (Photo by Kristin Roberts)