For the Cheshire High School football, wrestling, and cheerleading programs, the past year has been a physical and mental challenge. While the teams were all given permission to practice without person-to-person contact at one point, the athletes haven’t been allowed to compete due to health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can’t say enough about how our players have handled everything this year,” said CHS football head coach Don Drust. “They are leaders on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. As coaches, we will do anything we can to recognize them.”
Earlier this month, CHS athletics found a way to participate in a team activity and make a splash for a good cause. For the 16th Annual Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA Sloper Plunge event on March 6, the Rams had football, wrestling, and cheerleading representatives jumping into the water at Southington’s Slopers Pond to help raise more than $91,000 combined for Camp Quinnipiac (Cheshire) and Camp Sloper (Southington) this year.
“It was a good experience,” said CHS Athletic Director Steve Trifone. “Our kids always want to give back in some way. They couldn’t compete at the school, but this was a way to help out kids in the area.”
Cheshire Community YMCA Director of Community Development Doug Levens approached Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeff Solan and Drust about including athletics teams in this year’s plunge event.
“As a cross country coach at Hamden Hall, I was thinking of ways to honor the seniors last fall and give them a positive memory,” reflected Levens, a Cheshire resident. “I thought that it would be great to have local student-athletes participate in the plunge this year.”
“Anytime you can do something to help kids, it is an awesome opportunity,” said Drust.
While the pandemic is still ongoing, Levens was pleased that the plunge could run this year with safety protocols.
“At the beginning of the year, we weren’t sure if we could do it, but figured it out with the health department,” stated Levens. “It was great to give people an opportunity to get outside and socialize.”
All event proceeds go toward sending youngsters to local summer camps. Levens said that the plunge started as a Southington event, but organizers have grown the Cheshire side in recent years.
“Since we’ve started, the YMCA has given out around $1 million,” reflected Levens. “The pandemic has hurt so many people and we are just starting to see the impact of it. There are going to be a lot of people in need and we want to help however we can.”
Due to rain, the plunge was pushed back a week, however Levens said that he knew of only person who couldn’t make it.
“With the pandemic still going on, I think that people don’t have as much to do on weekends,” said Levens, who has participated in the plunge for the last three years.
The week before the event, workers came out to the u-shaped dock and used chainsaws to cut a hole in the ice for people to jump into the water at Slopers Pond.
The plunge traditionally draws a big crowd, but due to health restrictions, no spectators were allowed to attend this year. The event was limited to 50 people per interval, with sections running from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“We generally only have five people jump at a time,” reflected Levens. “This year, people had to wear masks up to their jump and then put them back on when they were done.”
Levens estimated that there were almost 200 jumpers, with about 25 coming from Cheshire. Along with CHS athletes and coaches, Cheshire YMCA board members, Cheshire Y/Sea Dog Swim Club coaches, and town officials participated in the event.
“The community gives so much to us,” stated Trifone, who jumped in the water himself this year. “If I need to be cold for a few minutes to allow kids to go to summer camps, it is well worth it.”