Cold feet — and more — at the Santa Swim

CAMBRIDGE — According to a wind and wave site on the internet, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the waters of the Choptank River were 39 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees Centigrade (which makes it sound even colder.) The three dozen swimmers who took the plunge at the Santa Swim may not have read the river thermometer, but they had first hand knowledge (no, first foot knowledge) that the water was quite cold. Still some waded, some jumped up and down, and some dove into the water like it was still August. They were on a mission.

The multi-purpose Santa Swim raises money for the Care and Share Foundation which provides funds for unanticipated needs and programs to help people in Dorchester County. So who are these swimmers and waders? They range in age from young students like the Nagel sisters of Federalsburg to Helen Combes, who celebrated her 90th birthday last week. The sisters, 14- year-old Kaylyn and 11-year-old Emma, have participated since they were 5 and 8. Last year, they had tickets to Radio City and the Rockettes, so they couldn’t make the swim but they sent their money anyway.

This year, the girls raised $2,030 from their sponsors to win the Student Trophy. Kaylyn says, “We like being part of a good cause and we enjoy seeing the faces of all the other swimmers we’ve gotten to know through the years.”

The Individual Trophies, first, second and third place went to Kay Trice, Lari Caldwell, and Brody Nutter respectively. Team Trophies went to Cambridge Quota Club, the women’s group that also helps in the organization of the swim, Polar Express Book Club, and Old Trinity/ South Dorchester Good Neighbors.

Unlike the Olympics, the competition is won not by how fast you come out of the water, but by how much money your sponsors put in. As always, the Hyatt Resort provides the cold river beach front, but generously balances it with the hot tub and hot coffee, plus warm towels and warm chili.

No Michael Phelps in this event, but some big local names took part in this very successful Cambridge tradition. Mayor Victoria Jackson Stanley arrived with her team, though a cold kept her out of the water. Senator Addie Eckardt is a regular at the swim and stays in the water for an impressive length of time. Police Chief Dan Dvorak says, “Newport Rhode Island, where I worked before coming to Cambridge, also had a winter plunge but I never swam there. Here it looked like more fun.” The chief also brought his son Nathan along, who enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. Commissioner Dave Cannon, president of Care and Share, took a waist-high wade in the water too.

This is the 16th Santa Swim in Cambridge and it was special. Care and Share is grateful to the anonymous donor who pledged a matching donation that miraculously doubles the $11,000 raised on Saturday.

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