The annual Drowned Hogs “Freezin’ for a Reason” swim that traditionally takes place this time of year to benefit Wellspring Multi-Service Center is going virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, for the brave souls who participate there will still be lots of fun.
“COVID can’t stop us Drowned Hogs from doing our thing. Even though we can’t gather this year, we can still swim!” is the optimistic message posted on their website.
Swimmers who participate this year have a choice of where and when they would like to swim, from Jan. 30 through the end of February. The Drowned Hogs event normally takes place the Saturday before Ground Hog Day (Tuesday, Feb. 2, this year).
No one knows better than Wellspring President and CEO Vinny Harte and his son, Riley, what it’s like to jump into freezing cold water in the middle of the winter. This is Riley’s 14th year participating and his father’s 19th.
They plan to kick off the 2021 event quietly this Saturday at noon (the usual starting time) with no fanfare, despite an expected 23-degree temperature (with sunshine).
Harte noted that some swimmers might find having flexibility as to when and where they swim easier – although they will miss the normal way of doing things – because they can choose a day with milder temperatures.
“The event will be very different in 2021 because we’ll lose the usual crowd gathering together, but it’s more important than ever this year to raise funds because the need is greater and the ability to raise money through events is almost non-existent due to COVID-19,” he said. “Wellspring wasn’t able to hold its spring and fall fundraisers, and there won’t be a Chowder Fest or winter ball this year, so we’re hoping that enough funds will be raised through this virtual swim so that we can continue offering services at the same level as in the past.”
Last year’s swim raised about $35,000.
Most of the proceeds from this year’s Drowned Hogs swim will go to Wellspring’s food pantry, Aunt Dot’s Kitchen, and toward the delivery of meals to struggling individuals and families.
“We’ll get the word around through social media and phone calls to reach out to former Drowned Hogs participants [and to attract new ones] wherever they live to ask them to take the plunge virtually and to raise money from family and friends to support Wellspring,” Harte said. “I have a friend who is in Bermuda who will do it this year.”
While he said participating in the swim is part of his job description, “I honestly love doing it; there’s such a rush of adrenaline. You see people going into the water looking scared and making faces, but everyone comes out smiling and laughing. It’s such a silly thing to do for the right reason.”
The guidelines are simple: register now, start collecting pledges, choose a date and a place to swim, and then have someone take a video of you jumping into the water. The swim normally takes place on Nantasket Beach, but any location will work for this year’s event.
While there will not be a winter ball or Chowder Fest this year, some aspects remain the same. Participants are encouraged to dress up in their favorite costumes and submit their videos either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to post them on the Drowned Hogs Facebook page.
Prizes will be awarded for the best costumes and for the most successful individual and team fundraisers. All swimmers raising the $50 minimum will receive an official Drowned Hogs face mask.
Pledge incentives include official Drowned Hogs T-shirts, jackets, hats, Red Sox tickets, and a special “night out.”
For information about how to register, make a donation, become a sponsor, or to obtain a pledge sheet, visit drownedhogs.org. There is no registration fee.