BRADENTON BEACH -- While the Gulf of Mexico waters were far from frigid Wednesday, about 70 people plunged into the New Year to cool off for a good cause.
The sixth annual Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge brought out people looking for both camaraderie and a hangover cure in this non-traditional approach to start 2014 in Bradenton Beach.
As all good ideas do, this one began on the beach and ended at a bar -- Clancy's Irish Pub on Cortez Road, where some Rhode Island transplants wanted to have a little fun by recreating a polar plunge in paradise.
Brian Crudele, whose wife Jan Crudele helps with Caring for Children Charities/Florida Winefest & Auction, organizes the plunge along with Jeri Knight,
"It's all about giving to charity. It's all about giving to disadvantage children in Sarasota and Manatee counties," Brian Crudele said. "We've raised over $100,000 over the last six years and every penny goes to charity."
Caring for Children Charities, a 501(c)(3), distributes the funds to various children's groups in the area, including Feeding Empty Little Tummies, whose founder, Jane Evers, passed away Tuesday. The charity provides meals in
backpacks for homeless children.
"It's an awesome organization, but she's got somebody right behind her to take over so it will continue, so it'll be awesome," Jan Crudele said.
Most of the money is raised following the plunge at the event's sponsor, Clancy's, where people bid on auctions, enter raffles and recover, he said.
Bradenton resident and Rochester, N.Y., native Debbie Koselny joins in the fun with the co-organizers since the first year and dresses up in a costume, this year as bit of a Lone Ranger along with a couple versions of a tropical Tonto roaming around.
Koselny admits there's no strategy involved with her approaching the water.
"Sometimes we run in, but I think the older we get, we just walk real fast," she said.
A bulk of the participants warmed up with a help of a few drinks at Clancy's before heading out to Three Piers at Bradenton Beach, where it was 69 degrees during the plunge and 65 degrees in the water -- not exactly putting the shiver in Shamrock Shiver for some, but cold enough for a few Anna Maria residents.
"Once we were in, I was like OK, I didn't want to get out. It actually wasn't too bad," Todd McIntyre said with a chuckle, dressed in a grass skirt with his entourage.
His friend, Vicki Adema, drying off and warming up in a towel, thought otherwise.
"Shivery," said Adema, participating in the plunge for the first year with her friend and fellow first-timer, Jen Bowman.
They've all heard the dismissive comments from their northern friends who say unless there's ice in the water, it's not all that cool.
"We say that's why we live here," Bowman said.
"That's our comeback."
The coldest was four years ago, when it was 57 degrees in the water and raining, yet they managed to get about 50 people out that year, Brian Crudele said.
"We used to attend the polar plunge up in Rhode Island all the time, and of course that's subzero weather with people coming out with their mustache and ice in them," he said.
So his friends call him names, but he's fine with that.
"You can call me a sissy as long as we keep raising money for the kids," he said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.