CHATHAM – Even though the April Fools Plunge was postponed from Saturday to Sunday, Justin Tavano and Gerard Smith showed up at Harding's Beach on April 1, along with one other person who couldn't make it Saturday. Together they braved the cold and wind-driven rain to take their annual swim on April Fool's Day proper. maintaining their decade-long streak.
The next day, hundreds crowded the parking lot under sunny skies to take a dip in the 40-degree Nantucket Sound waters to help raise money for Harwich resident Ryan Watson, who is undergoing treatment for a rare brain tumor.
Watson, accompanied by his wife Lizzie, was overwhelmed by the turnout and the bravery of folks willing to jump into the frigid water.
“It's a real community thing,” said the 27-year-old 2007 Harwich High School graduate, who is undergoing treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Smith and Tavano first organized the swim nearly a decade ago to help raise money to ease the financial burden illnesses such as Watson's puts on local families. Over the years, $100,000 has been raised through the annual plunge. This year's unofficial total was at $8,000 at press time, with more donations still be to be counted, said Tavano.
“Overall it was a pretty good success,” he said, though the number of participants looked to be a bit down, probably due to the postponement.
The most difficult part of the event is finding a beneficiary, he said. “We like to try to keep it as local as possible, so we can have a direct impact on somebody in the community.” The best outcome, Tavano added, would be that nobody has to come forward. Even if that were to happen, “we'll be doing it again next year,” he said.