The Northern Westchester Examiner

Record Turnout for Peekskill Polar Plunge in Hudson

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Some came out to start 2017 checking off an item off their bucket list. Others read about the frigid experience and wanted to try it personally.

But the majority of the record-setting 78 individuals donned in various forms of attire who were at the shore of the Hudson River at the Riverfront Green in Peekskill New Year’s Day turned out to support the efforts of Lauren and Caitlin Brady and their This Is Me Foundation, which was created in 2011 to raise awareness about alopecia and help any individual dealing with an insecurity of any type.

The first Polar Plunge held in 2012 had only 11 participants. Each event has been sponsored by The Quiet Man Public House in Peekskill.

“This year we have 45 first-timers. That’s the part that’s insane,” an exuberant Lauren Brady said. “This is the best day we’ve ever had (with the weather).

The Brady sisters were each diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, while in high school. It was often a struggle to deal with, but they always remained as positive as they could but never spoke publicly about it.

In January 2011, after watching Miss Delaware 2010, Kayla Martell, take her wig off and explain she would compete in the 2011 Miss America Pageant wearing a wig, as she too had alopecia, the Brady sisters decided three weeks later to start the This Is Me Foundation, which they did via a short YouTube PSA.

In January 2012, the Brady sisters began giving college scholarships to local high school seniors enrolled in college who have displayed leadership skills while having faced adversity of any kind or helped others through adversity. The scholarships are presented in honor of their late close friends Ryan Risco and Cait Chivonne Polhill and are funded primarily through the money donated at the Polar Plunge.

This year, nearly $15,000 was raised from individuals and teams, such as the group from Taco Dive Bar.

“We all decided we wanted to do it together and help out,” said Eric Johansen, 16, son of Peekskill’s police chief, who was wearing a taco suit for the occasion.

Brian Mahoney of Cortlandt said his mother suffered from alopecia when she was a kid and he wanted to contribute to the cause. To prepare, he took a cold shower in the morning, which he admitted was “a little shocking.”

“My new year’s resolution of not swearing was broken this morning,” Mahoney quipped.

Ralph D’Aliso decided for the first time to jump in with his daughter, Taylor, 12, who was participating for the third time.

“I promised my daughter I would do it this year,” he said. “I hope it will be a quick in, quick out.”

Christine Bischoff has taken the plunge all five years to support her longtime friends, the Brady sisters.

“It’s a good cause and a great way to start the new year off,” she said.

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