BRATTLEBORO — The Marina Restaurant Plunge is always a good time and it's always for a good cause.
"But this was dear to me," said Deirdre Baker, organizer and cancer survivor, choking up. "I usually cry all day this day but the turnout today on a crappy, cloudy day is huge to me."
The money raised in this year's Plunge will go to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's Oncology Department. Sunday afternoon saw participants jumping, diving or dropping cannonballs into the West River. A boat brought them out to the water, where another boat holding members of the Brattleboro Dive Rescue Team was stationed in case of an emergency.
An estimated $8,000 to $9,000 was raised this year. Baker alone brought in $1,500 by getting pledges.
"We're going to make a difference today," Baker yelled into a megaphone. "We've raised over $80,000 in 11 years."
As the first boat of participants stopped on the water, Baker said no one wanted to go first. She could not jump due to doctor's orders.
Donnalie Corey, of Brattleboro, had convinced Abby Shuey, another Brattleboro resident, to take the Plunge. Corey had done it once before. They were getting on a boat when rain began to fall.
"I feel exhilarated," said Corey. "You support a local cause and have fun."
In the past, the fundraiser has benefitted Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Gathering Place adult-day service provider and the Boys & Girls Club.
"Every year, I'm blown away. All the money stays in Brattleboro," Baker said. "I know every year when this comes about I can help someone or something. I can't do a lot physically but I can do something."
That was part of the deal when she approached Diane Vergara about this year's donation. Vergara has worked at the hospital for 28 years and the Oncology Department for 15 months. She has known Baker since they went to high school together.
Vergara ensured Baker the money would go directly to the patients.
"I made sure it was," Vergara said.
The Marina's own Brian "Radar" Patenaude was touched by the fundraiser. He wore a shirt displaying a message about the glass being half full to promote the optimism that helped him get through a time when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon/rectal cancer.
"My motto is I'm not a colon anymore, I'm a semi-colon," he said, adding, "Humor gets us through."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.