Hundreds hit the frosty Brandywine

Polar Plunge hits new heights for attendance and fun


Swimmers hit the frosty Brandywine Creek as part of the Brandywine Valley Association’s Polar Plunge, Saturday. Hundreds of swimmers hit the water to raise money for the BVA, while a giant crowd looked on.

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST BRADFORD – It was a fabulous, sunny day: a great opportunity for a nice dip in the Brandywine Creek, Saturday morning.

Well, that is if you didn’t mind the 30-degree air, the 38-degree water and the wind whipping through the trees that kept most bundled up warmly. In other words, it was just another Polar Plunge, the annual Brandywine Valley Association fundraising event at Brandywine Picnic Park that brings funds to support clean water and other other worthy local ventures.

About two hundred brave swimmers from literally dozens of local community and school groups, including the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, the Kennett Consolidated School District, Widener University, Longwood Rotary, just to name a few of the many groups in attendance.


Members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity from Widener University enjoy some February sunbathing, before hitting the Brandywine Creek Saturday.

Two of the largest groups were the Kennett High School Earth Club and Widener’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity, although others — including the Downingtown-based Brandywine Roller Girls (a number of whom jumped in wearing their roller derby helmets) made an impressive debut.

Once again, in addition to the number of swimmers in attendance growing, it appeared that there were more people on hand to watch, too, enjoying the efforts of former Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker as the event’s emcee, with music provided by local music legend and DJ Del Bittle — often provoking spontaneous dancing.

Of course, there was the annual costume contest, food, fun and excitement — but the clear focus on the BVA and Brandywine.


Former Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Superintendent of Schools joins in the dancing while serving as emcee for the Polar Plunge.

And although it was too early to get a solid sense of how much money the event raised — now in its sixth year — it has generated some $74,600 in the first five years and seemed likely to at least match last year’s estimated $12,000.

Folks from all over the area collected pledges — $35 was the minimum total ($25 for students) although many raised much more for the “opportunity” to enjoy a lovely dip in the Brandywine. And while most of the fundraising was pretty straight forward, there might have been a little intrigue when it comes to a pair UCF elementary schools and a bet between their principals.

Unionville Elementary School Principal Cliff Beaver took a friendly wager with Hillendale Elementary School Principal Steve Dissinger: raise money and let the students pick the plunger, by their donations.

Students at both schools, it seems, favored seeing Dissinger hit the water.

“It think it was a conspiracy,” Disssinger laughed — moments before hitting the icy waters. “But he (Beaver) is getting wet regardless.”

A good sport, Beaver came ready to hit the water, too — and joined Dissinger and current Unionville Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Sanville, who took the plunge for the sixth straight year.


The Brandywine was filled with swimmers — and those making it to the opposing bank came back with t-shirts and other goodies donated by event sponsors.

Between the two schools, students raised some $550.

Event organizers expressed thanks to all of the sponsors — many of whom provided food, and items for the participants, particularly NorthFace, the title sponsor.

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