CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Three Bethel Rehabilitation Center staff members undertook an unusual February activity: swimming. The three staff members joined 150 costumed swimmers for an icy plunge into a LaGrange lake on Feb. 11 to raise money toward Alzheimer’s research.
“This cause is very near and dear to our hearts,” says Michelle Olson, recreation director at the nursing home. “We see first-hand the heartache and devastation brought about by Alzheimer’s disease. It takes its toll on the residents as well as the families who love them. As caregivers, it is our responsibility to do whatever we can on their behalf. If jumping into an icy lake in the middle of winter helps find a cure, then that’s what we have to do!” she said, dressed as the tooth fairy.
The Alzheimer’s Association Subzero Heroes Icy Jump raised more than $33,000 toward Alzheimer’s research and support services, quadrupling 2011’s total. The money will go to the Hudson Valley, Rockland and Westchester Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Bethel Rehabilitation Center, the Croton-on-Hudson non-profit whose brave staff took the icy dive on Tuesday, has a 40-bed dedicated and secured Alzheimer’s wing.
Costumed swimmers milled about the shoreline, waiting for their turn to jump into the icy water. Costumes varied from the three Bethel employees, Olson, Duane Baisley, Assistant Director, and Recreation Leader Donna Carey dressed as a Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, respectively to mermaids with shimmering blue tails and shell necklaces, a stripped-down Superman in only a speedo bathing suit and cape, and a woman garbed only in a yellow polka dot bikini.
The crowd let out a collective groan of disbelief as the swimmers one-by-one dove into the water, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa Claus held hands as they took the plunge.
After climbing out of the frigid water, swimmers changed into dry clothes and shared a warm meal indoors. Plans are already underway for next year’s Subzero Heroes fundraiser. “We got 100 people in and out of the water in 25 minutes, we’re definitely looking forward to being even bigger this year,” said Karen Skelton, event organizer about prospects for the 2013 icy heroes fundraiser.
The money raised will support core services provided by the Hudson Valley chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, including a 24 hours per day support line, on site social workers and Alzheimer’s education programs. The money will also support Alzheimer’s research. The Alzheimer’s Association is the biggest private donor toward Alzheimer’s research, said Skelton.
Alzheimer’s is estimated to affect 5.6 million Americans, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only cause of death among the top 10 which is not preventable, curable or can be slowed. Deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 66 percent over the last 12 years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.