BRADENTON BEACH -- Screams of joy -- and maybe a few of shock -- rang out on Bradenton Beach at precisely noon on Thursday, as hundreds of participants ran into the Gulf of Mexico on New Year's Day.
The cries and cheers continued as the participants, in various states of dress, plunged through the chilly water and celebrate the start of 2015. While some rocked bikinis and swim trunks, others were dressed in slightly warmer costumes, including bumblebees and even one penguin suit.
As the participants worked their ways back to shore in search of a towel, a few lingered in the water.
"It feels good," said 76-year-old Charlotte Sorsen. "Really chilly, but good."
This was Sorsen's first year participating in the annual Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge. She said she had read about the event in the paper and wanted to try something new for 2015.
The annual event, now in its seventh year, is run by Clancy's Irish Pub on Cortez Road. The plunge helps raise money for Caring for Children Charities, a nonprofit helping children and families in need in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The nonprofit is run by Florida Winefest & Auction. The event has raised more than $100,000 so far and plunge organizers hoped to take in at least $22,000 this year, to beat last year's numbers, said Jan
Crudele, one of the organizers.
"This is all for the kids," she said. "'We give where we live,' that's our motto."
Clancy's owner Rayma Stowe said the plunge raised $22,100.
And although the money goes to help needy children, this year was a special year for Crudele and the other organizers. In March, Jeri Knight, one of the original organizers of the event, died from scleroderma, a chronic connective-tissue disease. Crudele and others close to Knight wore T-shirts in her honor of Thursday.
"She's with us today," Crudele said.
Thursday's event brought out the Felsbourg family, on vacation from Ontario, Canada. Father Kevin, who is a firefighter at home, participates in similar event each year on Lake Ontario, which also helps raise money for charity.
"The water is a little colder there," he said, adding they have to break through the ice before the plunge can happen at home.
The much-warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico made a much better venue for his 9-year-old twins, Lily and Maxine, to test out a plunge.
"The water's a little cold," said Maxine. "We agreed the air is colder than the water."
But the cloudy, slightly windy, 66-degree day didn't seem to bother either girl as the countdown hit zero and they ran, in matching bikinis, into the water.
The two were some of the last ones out of the water.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.