By Heather McCarron
WRENTHAM — At this time of year, the weather in New England is especially fickle. It might be “wicked warm” at one moment, and then “wicked cold” the next. There’s one group of local adventurers who have good reason to pray for the former on April 1.
Among them is Selectman Steve Langley, a Wrentham Lion who is mentally preparing himself for a uniquely chilling experience: Taking a running leap off the sands of Sweatt Beach and into the still winter-cold waters of Lake Pearl.
It’s all part of the Wrentham and Norfolk Lions Clubs’ inaugural April Fools Plunge planned on Saturday, April 1 to raise funds for Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund (MLERF). MLERF’s mission is to fund grants for Massachusetts institutions performing research related to the prevention and cure of eye-related diseases.
The plunge into Lake Pearl was first proposed as an idea by the Norfolk Lions to aid MLERF and expanded to the Wrentham Lions Club to extend the reach of fundraising efforts. Each “Plunger” is working to attract sponsors to donate. The Lions welcome any and all to be a “Plunger” and encourage the public to come to the event.
Langley said the choice to become a “Plunger” himself, while at odds with his sense of self preservation, was pretty much a no-brainer.
“As many people know, I have a history of volunteerism in the community, which I thoroughly enjoy, and the Lions are just one example of that life choice. However, the opportunity to raise money for Mass Lions Eye Research Fund sealed the deal,” he said.
Lions, he said, “are ‘Knights of the Blind’ and have been so designated since Helen Keller, who once lived in Wrentham, challenged the organization many years ago to help people with blindness.”
“Our donations to MLERF, and the fund’s donations to research in our state has saved the sight, and improved the lives, of so many people. How can you not sign up to help something like this?” he said.
With all of the volunteerism he has under his belt, though, this effort will be a first for Langley.
“I have never plunged into a freezing and frigid lake in April, but I have been in a dunk tank on a cold day before and it is no fun,” he said.
But, on the plus side, he added, “I think that the plunge into the lake will be a little better than that because a dunk tank can be a jarring experience and it can happen multiple times in one session. With the plunge, it is run in, plunge and then get out. Quick and ‘easy.’”
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, a member of the Norfolk Lions, said he is also taking the plunge.
“I’m a Norfolk Lion so I am always more than happy to help raise money for a good cause. And Lions eye research is one of the best charities in the Commonwealth,” he said. “So maybe I’m just crazy, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Jumping into a lake in April is also a first for Dooley. Although he did once enter a “quite chilly” Baltic Sea for an Ironman event in Sweden, he said, “there I was able to wear a wet suit.”
Dooley doesn’t have any particular plans for preparing himself for the April 1 experience, but he does have his expectations for a very bracing dip.
“I don’t like cold water, so (I am) not preparing. I want to go into freezing water as infrequently as possible,” he said.
All he can hope for, he said, is that it warms up some that day.
There are also going to be other Wrentham and Norfolk Lions and possibly other well known members of the community joining the “Plugers,” Langley said, “so I hope that people will come to support us.”
“We are looking for this to be an annual event for the Wrentham and Norfolk communities, but it all depends upon our residents and supporters. I’m hoping for a sunny 70 degree day, but I am doubtful that we will be so lucky,” he said.
As for his own expectations, realistically speaking (and even though it IS April Fool’s Day), Langley isn’t fooling himself.
“Mentally, I am preparing myself for the rush of cold water to engulf my body and the pain that will course through it as I freeze,” he quipped. “I have pictured this scenario several times, but I’m going to run in, go under and then get back to the shore – there will be no lingering! I am not sure what type of acrobatic move I will make to do my plunge, but ultimately it will probably end up with just a fall, with a tremendous lack of grace and coordination.”
The April Fools Plunge will take place from the town’s Sweatt Beach off Woolford Road. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and “Plungers” will take their less-than-leisurely dips in the lake at 11 a.m.
Potential “Plungers” may find registration forms at the Wrentham Cooperative Bank at 102 South St., Wrentham. Hot Cocoa and soup will be available to all, especially for the “poor souls” jumping into the chilly waters. And they can take an extra measure of pride in knowing that, while helping today’s vision impaired population, they are paddling in the same waters Helen Keller once swam in — though probably not in April!
Anyone who would like to donate to Dooley’s effort can do so directly online, with 100 percent of donations going directly to Massachusetts Lions Eye Research. Visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/norfolk-and-wrentham-lions-april-fools-plunge/fundraiser/shawndooley2
For questions or comments about the April Fools Plunge or Langley’s effort, contact him at at 508-404-8682 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, to donate the the Wrentham Lions’ overall effort, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/fundraise-and-volunteer/donations/wrentham-lions-april-fools-plunge/the-wrentham-lions-club-foundation-inc
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