(Jan. 4, 2013) More than 600 people raced into the cold ocean on New Year’s Day — most, with smiles on their faces, excited to participate in the 19th annual Penguin Swim, a fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital.
Last year, during the 18th annual event, an estimated 1,000 “penguins” donned everything from bathing suits to superhero costumes as they plunged into the nearly 50-degree ocean at 91st Street. Organizers hoped the 2012 fundraiser would garner $71,500 for the Berlin hospital — that goal was exceeded by more than $15,500.
The target for 2013 was again $71,500.
“New Year’s Day is in the middle of the week so we didn’t increase the goal,” AGH Development Coordinator Laura Stearns said last week. “We always hope to exceed it because all of the money goes to the hospital, which benefits everyone.”
After this year’s swim, it was announced that a total of 661 registered for the event and $80,526 had been raised as of Tuesday. Additional donations were anticipated in the days following the swim, said Donna Pellinger, director of development for Atlantic General Hospital.
“We are ecstatic about the amount raised,” she said. “I thought [the event] went great. Everyone seems very happy. The rain held off and we had lots of wonderful participants again.”
For 2013, participants and spectators again had the option to gather at the Princess Royale on 91st Street or join friends at Bull on the Beach on 94th Street before the 19th annual swim. The party kicked off around 9 a.m. at Bull on the Beach and final registration for the Penguin Swim began at 11:30 a.m. at the Princess Royale.
Participants were led to the beach just before the 1 p.m. swim. Once everyone was ready, a signal was given for the penguins to enter the ocean. Children had their own area and went in first, followed by the adults. Some people got a little wet, while others dove in to the 34-degree water for a swim. The air temperature was about 47 degrees.
After the swim, penguins gathered at the Princess Royale’s Atrium to warm up in the pool and hot tubs. Awards were presented to the youngest and oldest swimmers, as well as to the top team and individual money-raisers.
“Thank you for sharing your new year’s day with us again for those of you coming back, and thank you for getting in the water. The water was cold this year,” Michael Franklin, Atlantic General Hospital president and CEO, told the crowd.
Before awards were distributed, swim co-chairwoman Patricia Ilczuk-Lavanceau was recognized for her services.
“I’m here because [Bull on the Beach owner] Phil Houck challenged me and I don’t turn down a challenge,” she said. “He said, ‘Come on, go in,’ and I said ‘I’ll go in if I can raise $12,020.04.’”
In just a few weeks, she collected more than $13,000. Ilczuk-Lavanceau took the plunge into the cold ocean in 2008 in honor of her husband, André. She wanted to raise $12,020.04, the dated of her late husband’s liver transplant. She has been the swim chairwoman for the last four years.
“It’s been an honor and pleasure working with a great group of people,” Ilczuk-Lavanceau said.
Sal Fasano assisted Ilczuk-Lavanceau this year and will take over as chairman of the event.
“We cannot thank Patricia enough for her four years of leadership and dedication as the Penguin Swim event chair,” Pellinger said.
The youngest penguin was 6-month-old Lilianna Browning of Salisbury. Seventy-nine-year-old Sylvia Angstadt of Ocean Pines was the oldest participant.
Bill Mitchell of Laurel, Md., raised $575 and earned a third-place honor as the largest individual donator. Woody “Butch” German of Baltimore collected $2,194 in donations, good for second place. Craig Kettler of Leesburg, Va., brought in $3,460 and was named the No. 1 individual donor.
In the team category, third place went to Ocean City Ravens Roost No. 44 for donating $5,306. In second place was the Parke Penguins (Ocean Pines), who collected $8,810. The Bull on the Beach team, which included more than 100 swimmers, was the top team fundraiser again this year, donating $25,000.
During the 19-year history of the event, the Bull on the Beach team has raised more than $300,000 for AGH. Bull on the Beach owner, Phil Houck, typically leads his team from the 94th Street restaurant to the starting line on the day of the swim.
“We have the greatest team of people. It’s not me, it’s the group of people that makes this happen,” Houck said.
Awards were also presented to teams and individuals 18 and younger who collected the most donations.
Benjamin Kettler of Leesburg, Va., garnered $380 to finish in first place. Jacob Shockley of Ocean City raised $250 and Kara Styron of Joppa, Md., collected $150.
The top team fundraisers in the 18 and Under division was Stephen Decatur High School Connections Club and Service Learning students ($1,804), Maryland Tree Service of Davidsonville, Md. ($300) and the Crimson Fireballs of Salisbury ($250).
Participants dressed in the best costumes also received awards. Costume contest winners were: Best Overall, Butch Lorditch, Reinholds, Pa.; Most Spirited; Dave Kelley, Alexandria, Va.; Most Creative, Cy Tertel, Whitehall, Pa.; and Best Little Penguin, Alexis Iovacchini, Salisbury.
The Penguin Swim, an annual anniversary celebration in May and the fall golf classic, held each September, are Atlantic General Hospital’s three main fundraisers. Since its inception, the Penguin Swim has raised more than $800,000 for AGH.
“The money raised benefits the hospital directly to expand and strengthen our programs and services,” Pellinger said.
Atlantic General Hospital has been providing health care to residents of Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties in Maryland and Sussex County, Del., since May 1993.
For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.