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Dozens dive in for season's last polar plunge

Polar plungers take a quick dip in the

Polar plungers take a quick dip in the Great South Bay at Corey Beach in Blue Point to raise money for Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. (April 7, 2013) Credit: Tara Conry

Tabea and Adriana Dilger stood on the shore of Corey Beach in Blue Point Sunday morning prepared to eat their words.

Last year, the Port Jefferson Station sisters attended the Bayport-Blue Point Lions Club’s first annual April Fools Polar Plunge, but as spectators. They laughed as others ran into the chilly waters of the Great South Bay and quickly retreated.

This time, they dived in.

“Our parents forced us,” said Tabea Dilger, 16, a junior at Mount Sinai High School. “Last year, we said, ‘Sure, we can do it,” and this year they said, ‘Well, you said you can do it and now, you are doing it.”

Adriana Dilger, 18, didn’t need much convincing.

“It was crazy, but really cool,” said the Mount Sinai senior. “It was on my bucket list after that.”

Having grown up in Germany, the Dilgers said they were accustomed to the cold, but motivating them and the roughly 100 others who participated this year was the mission of raising funds for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

The Smithtown-based nonprofit provides guide and therapy dogs to the blind, to soldiers overseas and to veterans returning home with injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It costs over $55,000 to raise a guide dog or a dog for one of America’s returning veterans,” said Judy Wines, 57, of Bayport, an ambassador for the foundation who attended the plunge with her husband, Thomas, and their service dogs, Mazel and Dice.

“Everything is free to the blind or disabled,” said Wines, adding that the foundation relies solely on donations. “Without contributors and supporters like the Lions Club and volunteers ... we just couldn’t do it.”

The plunge raised about $1,000. Through the years, the Lions have sponsored eight dogs at a cost of $6,000 each, said Barbara Schwall, the club’s president-elect and advisor to its youth group, the Leos.

Rachel Beck, 23, Holbrook, had already jumped into the Atlantic Ocean at Smith’s Point on New Year’s Day just for the fun of it.

“This is my first time plunging with an official polar plunge group,” she said, while sipping iced coffee. “It was such a rush I thought I’d do it again.”

One of the youngest plungers, Michael Cancellieri Jr., 6, of Bayport, planned to dive in with his father, but ended up going solo.

“I chickened out this morning,” said Michael Cancellieri, 35. “I’m very proud of him though. Mikey is always willing to help out.”

Blue Point’s Ed McCarthy, 40, and his son Will, 8, plunged together, and then headed to a nearby St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser to shave their heads.

“He had a brain tumor when he was four months old, so he’s always felt the need to give back,” McCarthy said.

Jon Campanelli, 17, a Bayport-Blue Point Leo, stood in the bay for 18 minutes, outlasting all others.

Still shivering on the beach, he said, “My goal was to be the last one in there.”

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