It’s not typical to go for an early February swim off the shore of Long Branch, N.J., but on Saturday, Feb. 2, about 60 people dove into the icy waters, raising more than $50,000 toward a good cause.
Among these polar plungers was sophomore Frank Romano. For the past two years, Romano has participated in “Freezin’ for a Reason” after losing his younger brother, Michael, to neuroblastoma, a form of cancer affecting nerve endings.
“It’s a fundraiser to benefit Camp Sunshine, which is a retreat center in Maine for children with cancer and their families,” he said. “It’s nice because they’re not there alone and they meet other children and other parents who can personally relate.”
“Freezin’ for a Reason” was founded by A.J. Cincotta-Eichenfield when he was 15 years old. Cincotta-Eichenfield was raised in Camp Sunshine since both of his parents were full-time employees of the camp. After seeing thousands of families with ill children, he decided he would find a way to help. The polar plunge was the result of his good intentions.
“Watching people jump in the freezing ocean made me realize how lucky the camp kids are to have support like that,” junior Joy Tutunjian said. “I thought this event was for an amazing cause. Children with cancer deserve a place to go where they can get away and Camp Sunshine provides this.”
Every year, “Freezin’ for a Reason” raises funds to send these children with illnesses and their immediate families to the camp. The camp consists of two residence buildings, which house up to 80 families maximum, and a building for volunteers.
“I went there twice as a sibling of Michael’s,” Romano said, “and after he passed I’ve attended bereavement groups over the past two years and I’m hoping to volunteer this summer now that I’m old enough.”
In total, there are nine polar plunges that occur on the East Coast every year. From Bangor, Maine, to Reston, Va., each plunge supports Camp Sunshine and in 2007 a total of $120,000 was raised.
“The first birthday I had after my brother passed away was the first year Freezin’ came to New Jersey,” Romano said. “It felt like a message.”
To participate in “Freezin’ for a Reason,” the pledge must raise a minimum of $100. Last year Romano raised $300 for the cause, but this year surpassed that amount by raising $1,500, enough to send a family of four.
“It was moving to see so many people go out and support a good cause,” said freshman Jamie Spampinato.
This past Halloween, Romano held an on-campus fundraiser, “Cleanin’ for a Reason,” which will be returning to Rider’s residence halls in the spring.
Romano doesn’t stand alone in hoping for more involvement from the students and faculty.
“I feel that Rider should be more involved in causes like this because I find it is very important,” Tutunjian said. “Frank opened the doors for Rider’s community to help with this camp.”
According to Romano, students have begun to recognize him as “that ‘Freezin’ for a Reason’ guy.”
“It’s inspirational that people are beginning to know me for doing something good to benefit Camp Sunshine,” he said. “I just get really excited about it since it’s become a big part of my life.”