Temperatures on Saturday are expected to be in the 30s when participants begin jumping into the frigid water of Shenandoah Lake for the 6th annual Arctic Dip.
While the plunge into the cold water will only last momentarily, participants are raising money that will support year-long efforts at Valley Associates for Independent Living (VAIL) in the Shenandoah Valley, an organization that helps individuals of all ages with disabilities.
The Arctic Dip is VAIL’s largest fundraiser of the year, according to Executive Director Gayl Brunk, and this year’s event is on track to be a record breaker.
In its first year, the event had 38 participants and raised almost $8,000. Last year’s event nearly doubled the participants and saw a net profit of $19,256. As of Monday, the 2020 event already had more than 50 dippers that have raised more than $16,000 toward a $25,000 goal.
“It’s an amazing, fun time,” said Brunk. “All the money stays here in the community and goes to directly service people with disabilities.”
The idea for the event came from VAIL staff, comprised of a majority of individuals with disabilities, who approached both Brunk and the campground to make the idea a possibility.
“I remember thinking if I was going to lead from the top, I’m going to have to be willing to do this,” Brunk recalled. “I hate to be cold, but I have gone in every year. The staff has done a tremendous job with it, and the people at Shenandoah Acres are just phenomenal to work with.”
The annual event is held at Shenandoah Acres Family Campground in Stuarts Draft. The Arctic Dip will operate in heats, similar to a track meet, starting at 1:30 p.m. with each heat continuing about every 15 minutes thereafter.
Brunk’s tactic is to wear a swimsuit with layers on top for the dip, and bring a change of clothes afterward.
The first year of the event was the coldest, with event organizers having to cut through 8 inches of ice to allow an open space to run into. As of Monday, Saturday’s weather forecast for Stuarts Draft showed a mostly sunny forecast with a high of 35 degrees. Between the bonfire, heaters on the deck and changing clothes, Brunk said dippers warm up fairly quickly.
Individuals who would like to participate in this year’s Arctic Dip can register through the day of the event online at http://dip.govail.org/. A minimum $25 donation is required to participate. Those raising a minimum of $75 earn a souvenir t-shirt, and top fundraisers will receive additional prizes. Each dipper will also receive a “swag bag” that includes items like coupons to Jersey Mike’s, a free lake pass and Dominion Energy kits.
And for those who don’t want to brave the cold waters — donations to VAIL can be made online or by bringing cash, check or card to Saturday’s event.
“The people that receive the services are so appreciative. We have some people who receive services that dip because they believe so much in what we do and they have the ability to participate in this event,” Brunk said. “It really is a great service that the community receives, but it’s also a wonderful, fun event that you see a lot of community out for and having a good time.”