Polar Bear Dip christens the New Year

Posted: Saturday, January 02, 2010

 Close to 100 hearty souls christened the 2011 New Year by dipping themselves,their good intentions and their resolutions into the 36-degree waters of Auke Village Recreation Area on Saturday as part of the 19th Annual Polar Bear Dip. Air temperature of 38-degrees, light rain, and a 10 mile-per-hour wind dropped the chill even more, but smiles stayed upright in what was called “A Splash of Heaven 2011.”

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“You just go in to have a good time,” event founder Barbara Greening said. “It is a very social event.”

Greening walked into the water with her nieces Annie and Elan Tomlinson. Greening could only enter the water up to her knees as she is battling lung cancer and the shock of total emersion was ill advised by Bartlett Regional Hospital infusion therapist Tamara Simone-Collins, who also got wet.

“To get healthy,” Greening said. “To live life every day.”

Greening’s niece Annie vowed, “I want to write in my journal every day and run every other day” and her sister Elan added, “I want to write more letters.”

After participant screams had subsided many voiced their resolutions.

For JDHS swim team member Ari Clark and teammate Clarissa Ullmayer it is a five-year tradition. This year they brought Crimson Bears Brazilian exchange student Gabby Muzilli along.

“I don’t even know what a resolution is,” Muzilli said. “It’s a new experience. I am with my new friends to have fun, and they are life guards so I will be fine.”

Stephanie Logan and her father John do the plunge at midnight if they miss it in the day.

“He woke me up and brought me down here,” Logan said. “To stay healthy is our goal, and to put the Game Boys down.”

The Logans brought official picture-taker and towel-holder, and mother, Lynn.

“I am not this crazy,” Lynn said.

Dave Flarry, Alison Smith and Emily Smith were part of a seven-member group with matching shirts made by Emily.

Flarry stated their resolution: “No more polar bear dips, or at least, more dips in warmer waters.”

Amy Neussl, a 2003 JDHS grad visiting from California, brought a local support group that stayed ashore.

“I vow to stay healthy,” Neussl said. “I had a thyroid operation last year that has enabled me to do this. I can’t believe I went in. It was crazy cold.”

Clad in a fur coat, a gift to herself, Sonja Kokotovich vowed to think of a resolution when her brain had thawed out, while her dipping escort, Shane Brown, vowed to quit the hard alcohol and then drinking all together, “a two-plunge program.”

Tammy Cramer’s resolution was that she made it and would try it again next year.

Exchange student Knack Ketlatwathe of Thailand said, “It is crazy but cool” and has a resolution that “all things be better in the world.”

Rebecca Braun entered the water with her daughter, Rosie, and the spirit of husband John Caouette who died in a running accident in October while visiting family in Minnesota. Rebecca and John used to do their dip at the Shrine of St. Therese. While Rosie and her friend Portia Carney resolved to “be better at school,” Braun looked out over the waters of Auke Bay.

 “I want to try and live in my husbands spirit,” Braun said. “I think he would be proud of us today. I feel like he watched us, watched everyone out here today.”

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the day when Eaglecrest skiers Greening, Mary Bardone, Bill Platte and daughter Piper, and Len Cedar and daughter Evy finished such a great day of skiing that, since the sun was still out, they decided to dip into Auke Bay waters.

“It was a crazy inclination that has become pretty darn fun,” Greening said.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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