The calendar may have read Jan. 1, but the 43 F weather made it feel like mid-March as nearly two dozen Penguin Plungers took a quick dip in the ocean. As it has for 17 years, the Murray Hill boat launch hosted the Boothbay Region YMCA’s Penguin Plunge. And this year’s weather proved a welcome sight. Betty and Ted Repa has have plunged on several occasions, but not last year. 2018’s single-digit temperatures and health concerns prevented the couple from participating.
“Today is great. It’s more like summer,” said Betty Repa. She and her husband were recognized prior to the event by the BRYMCA for their community volunteering efforts. The Penquin Plunge raises money for second grade swimming lessons and is one of several community events the couple supports on an annual basis.
“We do it to support the kids, and it’s a great bonding effort for a community in a small town. Things like this don’t usually happen in a big community. It’s like the Windjammers or the Fourth of July fireworks in how it really bonds the community,” she said.
The Repas were joined by other community members who enthusiastically swam in the ocean’s mid-40 F waters. The plunge began in 2001 as a fundraiser for Boothbay Region YMCA’s aquatic program. In 2007, the plunge’s focus changed to supporting a second grade swimming program. Ted Repa believes teaching kids how to swim is a worthwhile community goal. “This is a seaside community, and kids should know how to swim. So we’re glad to be here today supporting the second grade swimming program,” he said.
Each year, the Y honors local volunteers who have made their mark in the community. The Repas are BRYMCA members. Ted Repa has served on the Y’s board of directors. He is currently the Boothbay Region Community Resources Council’s board chairman. The Repas are active Boothbay Harbor Congregational Church members. Betty Repa has served on the Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund’s board of directors. She also volunteers for various Y functions, including manning the front reception desk. The couple has also facilitated 21 adult religious community education courses.
Kurt Schuler is another frequent plunge participant. This was his fifth New Year’s Day swim. “I was away last year, and missed it,” he said. “But I’m here this year, and it’s a great cause. I’m glad to be here."
Even though the air and water temperatures were roughly the same, experienced New Year’s Day swimmers like Schuler know preparation is a key part of the plunge. “It’s still a shock no matter what the weather is like,” Schuler said. “But it’s more mind over matter.”
Penguin Plunge officials are hoping to raise enough money this year to expand the second grade swim program to include Great Salt Bay students in Damariscotta.