Cold swimmers raise money for new clinic

Local sports briefs

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Ten divers and six brave swimmers took a dip in the frigid waters of the Icy Straits May 12 to benefit the new Gustavus Clinic. The swimmers brought thousands of dollars in pledges to the Clinic.

The swim to Pleasant Island is "between a mile or two," said Gordy Vernon, who wore a drysuit for the swim. "It's kind of like swimming the English Channel for the average Joe. You can dress any way you want, but after a half-hour something's got to be cold."

Dr. Lindy Jones of Juneau was first to the island in a time of 37 minutes. He was followed by Chris Anderson in 40 minutes and Chris Smith a few minutes later. Mary Kralovich finished in just under an hour, and 60-year-old Abigail Calkins finished in an hour and fifteen minutes.

In addition to the swimmers, ten others took a quick jump into the water. Many of the divers were children. "These kids are the ones I admire," Vernon said. "You can see them shaking before they jump, not so much from the cold, but from fear. And when they come up, their eyes are open as wide as cathedral doors."

Gustavus Clinic is a small, independent clinic that occasionally receives a grant in the $20,000 range and in the summer serves a community of over 1,000 people. "We aren't allied to big hospitals or big federal health programs like SEARHC," said Sue Christiansen, the Clinic's physician's assistant and the first woman across the Channel in a little under an hour, "we're swimming because our backs are against the wall."

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