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Brr! Taking the plunge for charity

MANATEE — Most people avoid swimming in the chilly waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the winter months, but for charity, some people will do crazy things.

A group of daring individuals will brave water temperatures in the 60s at noon New Year’s Day for the Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge.

It is the second year Clancy’s Irish Sports Pub and Grill has sponsored the chilly plunge to raise funds for Caring for Children Charities.

“Last year 68 people participated, and we raised more than $14,000,” said Sara Stiles, a bartender at the popular drinking establishment. “So far this year we have 40 signed up, but hopefully we’ll get more before New Year’s Day.”

Participants and supporters will meet at Clancy’s, 6218 Cortez Road, at about 11 a.m. Friday and then trek out to Bradenton Beach near 12th Street South and Gulf Drive.

Stiles was one of the plungers last year and plans to be there again Friday.

“It wasn’t very cold last year,” she said. “We were out there for about 30 minutes.”

This year the water temperature will be about the same, maybe a degree or two lower, but the air temperature will definitely be a lot colder.

Last year the high was 77. This year the National Weather Service predicts sunny skies with a high near 64. There also will be a north-northwesterly wind between 11 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph, to add to the wind-chill.

Although regular Clancy’s customer Tom Lonergan said he never ventures into the Gulf unless the water is 80 degrees or warmer, he made an exception last year and plans to do it again Friday.

“It’s for charity,” said Lonergan, a retired New York City police officer. “I have good friends and family sponsoring me.”

He said as cold as the Gulf waters are, they are nothing like the Hudson River where his brother, a captain in the New York City Fire Department, leads a band of 250 for a yearly plunge for charity. “I have it much easier than he does,” Lonergan said.

The idea for the Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge came about during a discussion Clancy’s owners Rayma and Mel Stowe had with some of their customers.

Jan Crudele, spokeswoman for Caring for Children Charities, said she and her husband, Brian, and a friend, Jeri Knight, go to the beach every Sunday, and last December were talking about how the Polar Plunge in their hometown in Rhode Island raises money for charity.

“We thought we should get all our friends to do this, then go back to Clancy’s afterwards,” Jan Crudele said. “Rayma and Mel thought it was a great idea and suggested doing it for pledges.”

Just as they did last year, everyone is invited back to Clancy’s Freaki Tiki bar behind the pub for the post-plunge party to celebrate.

Crudele said Caring for Children Charities has provided funds for 71 nonprofit groups over the past 20 years, including Boys and Girls Club of Manatee, Manatee Children’s Services, and ManaTeen Volunteer Services.

There will be raffles and food, and the Jack Tamburin Band will provide live entertainment.

For more information, go to Clancy’s Web site at www.clancysirishsportspub.com or call (941) 794-2489.

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