Chilly charity: Swimmers plunge at Rye beach for ALS group

Participants jump in the water at Oakland Beach Participants jump in the water at Oakland Beach in Rye during the tenth annual Ray's Plunge. (Jan. 1, 2013) Photo Credit: News12

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If New Year's Eve belongs to the pink elephants, New Year's Day in Rye belonged to the polar bears.

About 75 brave souls defied temperatures that topped out at 38 and splashed into the frigid waters of Long Island Sound at Oakland Beach in Rye on Tuesday to raise funds for a pair of charities.

Benefiting from the 10th annual "Ray's Plunge: Freezin' for a Reason" event were the Larchmont-based MAC Angels foundation, which aids families coping with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation of San Diego, Calif.

"Hopefully we raised $2,000 to $3,000," said Phil Gormley of Rye, a member of MAC Angels, whose sister, Claire Collier, succumbed to ALS in 2009. MAC Angels and the Challenged Athletes Foundation will split the proceeds, he said.

Plungers were asked to make donations of $50 per adult, $35 per child or $100 per family, Gormley said.

Chris Leonard of Greenwich, Conn., one of the plungers, described the experience as "exhilarating."

"I do it for the cause, and also for the rush," Leonard said. "It gets the endorphins going. Just the first five seconds feels like hot needles, and after that the endorphins kick in. It feels wonderful."

A few hundred more people decided to take Leonard's word for it and offered support to the swimmers from the shoreline.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Progressive degeneration of the nerve cells impairs the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement, leading to paralysis and death. There is no known cure of ALS at this time.

The MAC Angels organization takes its name from the first initials of philanthropist Mary Ann Collier, who worked with numerous charitable organizations before her death in 1999, and her daughter-in-law Claire Collier.

On its website, macangels.org, the group says its mission is "to enhance the quality of life for patients, family members and caregivers affected daily by ALS by providing the compassion, education and unique resources needed to manage the devastating effects of this disease."

More information on the group is also available at 914-637-7010 or via email at Info@macangels.org.

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