Are you a chicken, a toe-plunger or someone who's ready to run full-force into the Hudson River on March 3—like Irvington Mayor Brian Smith has vowed to do—in support of the ?
It's not many application forms that include the question: "Are you nuts?" But in Irvington—with recreation programs like the annual July 4 fireworks and many regular trips for the Irvington Senior Bus cut due to budget shortfalls—desperate times have called for some pretty nutty measures.
This year, about 10 to 15 Irvington Recreation Department enthusiasts formed the Irvington fund-raising and Community Events (F.A.C.E.) Committee to find fun and creative ways to save programs without having to ask for more money from taxpayers.
"We were all sitting around one night and police officer Det. Mike Toolan suggested that we do a winter plunge into the Hudson River as a fundraiser," said co-organizer Maria Kashkin. "And we all just smiled. We have Matthiessen Park right here. It's so doable, so different—just a great idea."
Kashkin—also former president of the Irvington Schools' PTSA—said she was saddened by all the cuts to the Rec. department last year.
"I wrote letters last year—begged the village to try to find creative solutions to keep the wonderful things Irvington offers for kids, seniors and adults."
Recreation Department Superintendent Joe Archino is equally enthusiastic about the "Penguin Plunge."
"Instead of getting depressed about having to give up the things we love, the community rose to the occasion," he said.
Within hours of launching its website and posting the event on facebook, the fundraiser already had 15 pledged plungers.
"The only person who wasn't immediately thrilled with the idea was the cardiologist we have on the committee," said Kashkin, whose husband is among the plungers.
But Archino—a self-proclaimed neurotic—said it will be perfectly safe.
"There's a bit of a misconception that people will be fully submerging themselves and swimming in the river," Archino said. "That's not the case. We'll have it roped off to show people how far they can go."
Kashkin reinforced that it's also perfectly respectable to be a "toe-plunger" and just stick your bare feet in the water.
"As long as you make a donation to the Rec. Department, you can even be a 'chicken' and come down to the river that day and cheer everyone on."
Both the and the will have staff on hand.
"We'll have a tent with blankets and heaters and a bonfire; there will also be food and other entertainment," Archino said. "It should be a lot of fun."
The first to sign up for the plunge was none other than Mayor Smith.
"I hate the cold so I must be getting crazy," Smith said. "I won't even swim in non-heated pools in August; I guess I just love the Rec. Department more than I hate the cold."
And the F.A.C.E. Committee isn't stopping at the Penguin Plunge.
"We are doing a 'bed race' in April in which two teams of five race each other—four pushing and one in the bed," Archino said. "We did it when I was working in Port Chester in the 80's and it was hilarious."
Kashkin added that there had also been talk of a "chicken bowling" event—using frozen chickens as bowling balls.
"Of course, we'd then donate the chickens to a local food pantry," she said.
Kashkin and her co-sponsor Andy Lyons are working hard to make the sign-up process as streamlined as possible. You can sign up and pay online right here.
Plungers must be 16 or older and anyone under 18 must have parental consent. The minimum donation is $25.
"I can't believe how into this people are getting—one lady sent me an email saying she and her friends were going to come in 1920's themed bathing suits," Kashkin said. "Money may be tight, but if you put a twist on fund-raising efforts and make it fun, you can save so many important programs and events. This is just the beginning."
For more information, email Maria Kashkin at email@example.com. Also visit their website here. Everyone, not just Irvington residents, are welcome to plunge.
Editor's note: Organizers are looking for more sponsors.