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Icy river dip raises funds for charity

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CAPE VINCENT — Dennis W. Pearson walked into Breakers Restaurant on Saturday wearing a swim cap, snorkel, swim mask, life jacket and his wife’s homemade white nightgown.

The sight was met with hooting, laughter and applause, and was by far one of the strangest outfits worn at the inaugural Pluck and Plunge Festival.

“I think it’s going to be easy to get off. It’s going to be cold,” Mr. Pearson said of his ensemble.

The Cape Vincent resident was one of 10 people who took a dip in the St. Lawrence River as part of a community fundraiser. The majority of proceeds will be used for Breakers’s second annual charity Christmas party, with some funds going to the Cape Vincent Volunteer Fire Department.

The Christmas party, hosted by Breakers Restaurant, 194 E. Broadway, saw 75 attendees last year, and organizer Carolanne A. Porto is anticipating at least 25 more at the Dec. 23 holiday event. With so many people to plan for, Mrs. Porto and her husband, Charles J., realized they would need more funds. In 2012, the duo and several others paid for the extravaganza out of their pocket, providing adults and children with one present each, in addition to a “family present” — a box of clementines.

“We hope to make it a tradition every year,” Mrs. Porto said, donned in white stockings and a knee-high green Christmas elf dress for the plunge. She recounted how last year a local resident had sponsored an entire family. She said community members are more than welcome to do the same this winter.

“This is a good thing, to kind of bring Cape Vincent into the future,” Mr. Pearson said before the plunge. “It’s amazing the support that we’ve gotten ... Hopefully we can do this every year.”

The event was named in honor of Thanksgiving weekend and to differentiate itself from the Polar Plunge, held each year in Alexandria Bay.

The plunge began half an hour earlier than expected when a large group of spectators gathered at the dip site about noon. Then the group of brave souls made its way to the water. Some, like Jeanne L. Montroy, dressed warmly, while others, like Eric S. Derouin, wore very little. Each dipper entered at his or her own pace. No one was required to go all the way in, but most did. About 30 to 40 people turned out to watch.

Members of the Cape Vincent Rescue Squad were on site in case of incident.

“It’s definitely warmer in the air, that’s for sure,” Mr. Derouin said after taking the plunge. He wore only Christmas-themed shorts.

“We just went to our chin and my heart stopped and then it started again,” said Ms. Montroy, who was wearing a penguin costume. She leapt in up to her chin before stepping out.

Climbing out of the water in only a bikini and clinging to her friend Sierra Garcia, 15-year-old Delaney Roddy shouted, “Take a picture! I can’t feel my toes!”

After getting her bearings, Delaney added, “We ran and it was kind of cold. But I hit the water and didn’t feel anything.”

As for Declan F. Callan, a Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce board member, he leapt out of the water beaming.

“It was great,” he said, joking,”I’m not cold at all.”

There was a special guest who supported the event but did not take the plunge. Why?

“Because I’m a coward,” said Frank Shattuck, who played mob boss Charlie Sheridan in Season 1 of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

Mr. Shattuck has been a friend of Mr. Derouin and his father, Jean, for several years, and said he agreed to a meet and greet after the event because it was worth supporting.

Mrs. Porto organized the event with her husband, Mr. Derouin and Mr. Callan.

Anyone interested in assisting with the cost of the Christmas party can call Breakers at 501-5050, or stop into the restaurant.

The amount of money raised by the event was not available Saturday evening.

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