By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The Icy Plunge for the Cure, a longtime winter tradition, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the West Haven Breast Cancer Awareness Program.
Participants in the plunge can break out the arctic swimwear at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 2 at Savin Rock Beach.
Registration starts at 8 a.m. in the Savin Rock Conference Center, 6 Rock St.
The benefit, in its 19th year, was spearheaded by city and police officials to increase breast cancer awareness. Their initial meeting, on Sept. 28, 2000, led to the creation of the West Haven Breast Cancer Awareness Committee and a series of fundraisers, including the plunge, in support of breast cancer research and education.
The events, which included a duckpin bowling tournament, bake sale, pizza taste-off, walkathon and candlelight vigil, were held in memory of Susan A. Ruickoldt, a third-grade Savin Rock Community School teacher who died of breast cancer in 1997.
In 2003, the committee established the Susan A. Ruickoldt Scholarship Fund, which awards $2,000 to a female high school senior from West Haven who plans to continue her education.
Today, the scholarship fund and plunge are the committee’s remaining initiatives, said city Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo, a founding member who is joined on the committee by founders Maureen Blake, Jennifer Cavallaro, Ronald M. Quagliani, Susan See, Colleen Smullen and Lorie Tamaro, as well as new member Anthony Cordone.
“It has truly been an unbelievable run for the plunge and scholarship,” Sabo said.
The first 100 people to register for the frosty dip will receive “plungewear.” The top fundraiser will receive a prize.
Participants will wait on the beach for the signal to charge into the frigid surf of Long Island Sound. Wetsuits are not allowed.
About 175 people took part in last year’s event, which netted $25,000, Sabo said.
Since the inaugural plunge in 2001, the committee has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and education, buoyed by Cordone, a local contractor who has raised close to $200,000 for the cause during that time, Sabo said.
Proceeds have previously gone to the Smilow Breast Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Looking Forward, an education and wellness program for cancer patients at Smilow.
Organizers anticipate another hearty turnout this year, with invitations extended to Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and her predecessors, former Mayors Edward M. O’Brien, John M. Picard and H. Richard Borer Jr.
City, police and fire departments are forming teams and issuing challenges to one another to help raise the stakes and more money.
After the plunge, organizers will hold a raffle with prizes donated by area businesses.
Sabo said the event is a celebration of survivors and a remembrance of loved ones who have died of the disease.
Registration forms are available in the Department of Human Resources on the second floor of City Hall, 355 Main St.
Pledges for the plunge must be handed in the day of the event, Sabo said. Checks are payable to the West Haven Breast Cancer Awareness Program.
For information or to sponsor the plunge, call Sabo at 203-937-3558.
Send donation checks to the West Haven Breast Cancer Awareness Program, Department of Human Resources, 355 Main St., West Haven 06516.