CHATHAM – Traditionally, they travel by air on broomsticks, but next Saturday they'll take to the water, filling Oyster Pond with pointy hats, flowing black dresses and paddleboards.
The non-profit Witches on the Water will hold a fundraising event at Oyster Pond beginning at 2 p.m. Oct. 2. Participants will be garbed in Halloween-style witchy attire as they paddle around the pond to raise money for the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. DJ Stephanie Viva will emcee and provide music, and prizes will be awarded for the most creative costumes. There will also be raffle items, including a stand-up paddleboard donated by North Chatham Outfitters.
Funds raised through the event will benefit the Harwich-based Family Pantry, the Cape's largest food bank, which served more than 10,000 people in 2020.
In 2019, Jo-Ellen Erickson and Susan Price had seen a photo on Facebook of someone on a paddleboard dressed in witch garb, and decided to try doing the same. They mentioned it to a few friends, and 14 witches on paddleboards showed up at Town Cove in Orleans the following Saturday. They attracted a lot of attention.
“A lot of people showed up to watch us,” said Price. “We were blown away.” Afterwards, at the Land Ho, several people asked if they were raising money, and someone even offered a $1,000 donation.
“So many people reached out to us, very quickly we thought we should do something about this,” she said. With the help of attorney Bruce Bierhans and CPA Michael Galer, they established Witches on the Water as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and choose a board of directors, including Erickson as president, Price as secretary, Amy Corcoran as vice president, Maureen Kavanaugh as treasurer and Julie Kavanagh, Jenny Ciaffone and Jen Cusack as board members. The Nauset Rotary and several individuals provided some seed money to cover the cost of establishing the nonprofit; Price put together a website.
With so many deserving local nonprofits, the group decided to choose a different organization to benefit each year. Price said the board meets and each member writes a suggestion on a slip of paper, which is put in a cauldron and the designated charity drawn.
Last year was going to be the first annual event, but it was canceled due to COVID. The Witches decided to paddle in Town Cove anyway, and 45 people showed up. It caught the attention of Drew Barrymore, who mentioned the group on her CBS show “Drew.” The group also marched in this year's Chatham Independence Day parade.
“So we were really excited for this year to actually do the fundraising part,” Price said.
The Family Pantry received a couple of votes as this year's charity, Price said. Many people relied on the pantry during the past 18 months, Erickson added.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, there are still many families in our local community that face food insecurity,” said Erickson. “We look forward to supporting this incredible organization.”
Town officials in Chatham – including the park and recreation department, fire department and harbormaster department – have been “awesome” in helping to facilitate Saturday's event, Price said. “We've learned a lot about how to do all this and it's been really fun and interesting,” she said.
There is a $50 registration fee for the event, and the number of participants is limited. Each participant will be asked to raise at least $250. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Family Pantry, Price said. Pump House Surf in Orleans has loaned six paddleboards for those who wish to participate but don't have their own; they're available on a first come, first serve basis, she said. Participants must wear life vests and leashes. For more information and to register, visit witchesonthewater.org.
As of early this week, registrants had already pledged $7,000, Price said.
“We're super excited,” she added.
Witches on the Water First Annual Fundraiser
Oyster Pond, Chatham
$50 registration fee, $250 fundraising minimum
Information and registration: www.witchesonthewater.org