After all of the donations are in and tallied, organizers anticipate the 2011 New Year’s Day Penguin Swim in Ocean City, Md, a fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, will break records. More than $71,000 (net proceeds) in contributions was collected in 2010, setting a new record for the Berlin hospital’s annual fundraiser. Approximately 500 people donned everything from bathing suits to superhero costumes as they plunged into the 45-degree ocean at 91st Street last year. “It was the best year ever for funds raised by the Penguin Swim. Hopefully, 2011 will exceed that,” said Amy Unger, AGH director of development, prior to the 2011 swim. Though organizers on Monday did not yet have a firm number of how many people participated in the 17th annual Penguin Swim, they estimate approximately 900 to 1,000 brave souls jumped in the 42- degree ocean on Jan. 1. “We will continue to receive pledge payments and donations throughout the month to benefit [the] annual Penguin Swim,” Unger said. “Due to the large turnout of penguins, supporters and the community at large, we are very pleased to report that we anticipate exceeding our goal of $80,000.” Several factors contributed to the overwhelming number of participants this year, Unger said. The weather, at nearly 50 degrees and sunny, was much warmer this year than during past events, and the swim took place on a Saturday, which helped draw a record amount of spectators and “penguins.” Also, media outlets and the town of Ocean City promoted the swim. Swim Chairwoman Patricia Ilczuk- Lavanceau said one participant she talked to found out about the event via an Ocean City phone application. Many people also registered at the last minute because of the warm temperature and there were a good amount of first-timers this year, she said. Ilczuk-Lavanceau described the Penguin Swim as “phenomenal.” “People’s moods were uplifted. Everyone was pumped up and excited,” she said. “It was truly a real high. I was blown away by the turnout and the number of people that want to support our hospital. Our goal was $80,000 and I’m pretty confident we’re going to break that goal.”
After the swim, penguins gathered at the Princess Royale’s Atrium to warm up in the pool and hot tubs. Awards were presented to the youngest and oldest swimmers, as well as to the top team and individual money-raisers. Participants dressed in the best costumes also received awards. The youngest penguin was 5-monthold Jay Kettler of Leesburg, Va. The oldest was 82-year-old Pasquale Lemme of Newark, Md. Kevin Massey of Delmar, Del. raised $1,000 and earned a third-place honor for individual donors. Craig Kettler of Leesburg, Va. collected $4,275, and the top individual fundraiser was, for the seventh consecutive year, Woody “Butch” German of Baltimore, who raised $4,445. In the team category, third place went to the AGH Flapping Flamingos for donating approximately $6,000. In second place was the Ocean Pines Penguin Swim Team, who collected close to $6,200. The Bull on the Beach team, which included more than 200 swimmers, was the top team fundraiser again this year, donating about $20,000. During the 17-year history of the event, the Bull on the Beach team has raised approximately $300,000 for AGH. Bull on the Beach owner, Phil Houck, typically leads his team from the 94th Street restaurant to the starting line on the day of the swim. As a surprise, Ilczuk- Lavanceau said Houck was honored as “King of the Penguin Swim,” and received a crown, cape and scepter, during the awards ceremony. The Penguin Swim is one of the hospital’s main fundraisers. Before the 2011 event, more than $500,000 (net proceeds) had been donated to AGH.