ON Super Bowl Sunday, the Stony Point Seals will take part in their 15th annual polar plunge. Braving the arctic temperatures, hundreds of people will run into the water at the Grassy Point Seawall in Stony Point, located in Rockland County, NY.
This year’s beneificiary, three-year-old Olivia Barron, will be warmly wrapped up with the spectators. She will be cheering on the brave souls tackling this challenge just for her.
For years, every Super Bowl Sunday, a few neighbors and friends in Stony Point would get together to play football. In January 2000 one friend managed to convince his buddies that it would be a great idea to jump into the river after the game. Their wives did not think they were wise, though, and it was suggested that if they were going to make spectacles of themselves, they should do it for a good cause.
Fifteen years later, the Seals are still raising money for local children with medical needs.
At just five days old, Olivia Barron was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome, a very rare and complex syndrome that affects one in 10,000 children in the U.S.
Olivia’s parents, Julia and Andrew Barron of Co. Cork and Woodlawn respectively, are so grateful to the community.
“Stony Point has been so fantastic to us. We have great neighbors. It’s very similar to Woodlawn in the sense that it’s a really tight knit community,” Julia told the Irish Voice.
Twenty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Julia was told that Olivia had major heart problems and her chances of making it to birth were very slim. Olivia defied the odds then and continues to do so every day. She’s a little fighter who loves her iPad, playing with her weeble wobbles and spending time with her big sister Lillian.
Before she was even brought home from the hospital, Olivia had to undergo two surgeries. In addition to her heart conditions, her esophagus was attached to her trachea instead of her stomach.
From infancy Olivia has been regularly attending physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and vision therapy. While she is supplied with all the treatment and therapy that is available, CHARGE is a syndrome and it cannot be cured.
Olivia is profoundly deaf, extremely visually impaired and cognitively delayed. She was also recently diagnosed with seizures.
Julia explains that funds raised from the polar plunge will be used for Olivia’s continuing therapy, a safe bed for her, as well as a trip to a St. Louis clinic specifically geared towards children will CHARGE syndrome.
Mike Lydon, one of the event organizers, explains that swimmers can print donation sheets from their website.
“If you can do something this crazy you should at least get your friends to pay you to do it,” he said.
The event, which will include live music, a DJ, food and raffles, will kick off at 11 a.m. The water temperature is expected to be somewhere around 25 degrees and divers from the local fire department will be in the water making sure everyone is safe.
Over the years there have been all ranges of participants, Lydon told the Irish Voice.
“As long as you put your toe in the water it’s mission accomplished,” he said.
Most walk out waist deep while others live by the “go big or go home” motto and completely immerse themselves in the frigid water.
For those unsure about taking the plunge, Lydon offers up some perspective. “Sure, you’ll be cold for five or 10 minutes, but Olivia is going to be battling this illness for the rest of her life,” he says.
For more information or to make donations, visit www.stonypointseals.com.
The top 300 Irish family names explained