Taking a plunge in the frigid water off Crab Meadow Beach in Northport just wasn’t cold enough for Kevin Fowler. After participating in Camp Sunshine’s annual polar dip fundraising event on Saturday, the still-wet Lindenhurst resident took another dive -- right into the snowy sand, where he made snow angels with his godson, cancer survivor Joe Feminella, 16.
“I’ve been doing this event in honor of my godson for the last eight years,” Fowler, 58, said. “I’m always the last one in and the last one out of the water -- and proud of it.”
Camp Sunshine’s eighth Freezin’ For a Reason Long Island Polar Dip is one of 10 annual polar plunge events the organization holds along the Eastern Seaboard throughout the year, including one in Brooklyn on New Year’s Day. The camp invites children with terminal illnesses and their families to spend a week on their grounds in Casco, Maine, enjoying recreational activities while also receiving support and resources.
“We started by holding polar plunges in Maine, where people actually cut a hole in the ice and jump in,” said Michael Smith, director of special events at Camp Sunshine. “That’s the real deal up there. Then we decided, why not bring this to other places?”
West Islip resident Ann Feminella and her family have participated in the event since it started -- first in Amityville, then at its current location. Feminella’s son, Joe, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2004, and went into remission three years later. He is still in remission today.
“My family and I have been to Camp Sunshine six times over the last 10 years,” Feminella said. “I remember, when we went for the first time, one of the biggest things for me and my husband was seeing families and the children that were survivors -- it gave us hope.”
Lucy and Scott Sojack, of Farmingdale, are frequent visitors of Camp Sunshine, traveling up to Maine several times a year to volunteer. Their son Michael, 11, was diagnosed with pediatric hepatoblastoma, a type of children’s liver cancer, when he was only 11 months old. He is now currently in remission and participated in Saturday’s plunge, along with his family and supporters.
“It’s a place where you can forget about your problems for a week and make some memories,” Scott Sojack said of the camp.
Saturday’s event raised $11,290 for Camp Sunshine. According to Smith, the organization hopes to raise $350,000 from all of their polar plunge events combined. The funds will help pay to send local families and their children up to Camp Sunshine for a week, which costs roughly $2,000 per family.
“It’s just a little cold water,” Smith said. “For most of these families, that’s nothing compared to the hardships they’ve faced battling their child’s illness.”