Four spirited individuals gathered at Camp Sloper Wednesday evening to jump in a lake in order to raise money for disadvantaged kids who desire to attend the YMCA-affiliated program.
The motley quartet included an elephant in a tutu, a tiara-wearing “Miss Sloper” pageant winner, and a US Olympics fan, whose garb took love of country to the extreme.
The elephant in ballerina dress was actually a costumed Sue Tanner, the camp’s Director of Human Resources. Development Director Donna Ayer was the Miss Sloper contest winner, and the hyper-patriotic Olympics enthusiast was really Tony Casale, member of the Southington Board of Finance. The fourth jumper, Southington YMCA board member Terry Lombardi, donned sensible water-wear.
The occasion that drew this group to Sloper’s docks was the camp’s inaugural Solar Plunge, an event patterned after its Polar Plunge, a longstanding camp tradition that was also established to provide scholarships to needy campers, but instead involves jumping into the water in frigid January. The Solar Plunge was instituted this year for those “too chicken for the Polar Plunge,” according to lifeguard Jordan Revas.
A good-natured heckler among the crowd of camp donors and volunteers reinforced this sentiment with a friendly taunt directed toward the plungers: “The Solar Plunge is for sissies!”
Despite their lack of hardiness, the summer plungers managed to raise over $2,000 for the scholarship fund through pledges they collected. Ayer was especially pleased with the amount as only four participated in the effort, including her, and the amount each plunger had been expected to raise was $100.
After a cookout, which was held to honor the camp's volunteers and donors, the night’s proceedings moved into McLeod Pavilion, where four new members were enshrined into the “Sloper Hall of Fame.” The class of 2012 consisted of Sue Skarvinko, Chair of the International Committee and leader of the International Camp Counselor program; Dr. George Skarvinko, Volunteer Camp Physician for over 20 years; Marlene Eshoo, a beloved former Arts and Crafts Director; and Paul Rosin, Outdoor Center Committee Chair and perennial work volunteer.
Each inductee spoke his or her own contributions to the camp through the years and also the rewarding experiences of being part of the camp. Skarvinko said that she was grateful for the opportunity to provide the campers and staff “international cultural exposure” and to increase her own exposure to foreign cultures at the same time. Skarvinko said his service at the camp was “anything but a burden,” while Eshoo said that she actually felt "a little guilty for being honored for what I love to do.” And Rosen called his toils “a labor of love” and added, “It’s cliché, but I’ve gotten a lot more out of this than I’ve given.”
Camp Director Mark Pooler closed the ceremony by once again thanking the volunteers, donors, and staff and reminding everyone about the upcoming Polar Plunge in the winter. The latter remark elicited groans from the audience.
Camp Sloper will hold its annual Polar Plunge in January and its 2nd annual Solar Plunge next July. Exact dates are yet to be determined. The camp will also add four new members to its Hall of Fame at the July 2013 event.