About 50 Vermonters began the new year today with a frigid dip in Lake Willoughby Saturday morning. It's called the Willoughby Plunge -- a fundraiser for cancer research. A group of Northeast Kingdom residents organized this event -- each of them touched directly or indirectly by the loss of family or friends to cancer.
"We had this idea of raising money for the American Cancer Society by jumping into Willoughby Lake on January first and a small group of us came up and did a test run to make sure we could survive it, which we did," said Fred Laferriere, whose brother was a victim of cancer.
From there, the cause drew more and more plungers -- one of them purely by happenstance. "I actually drove here a few years ago and saw this, stopped by, and for two years came up and thought it was the craziest thing I ever saw," said Stephen Morse from Montpelier.
This is the seventh year of the Willoughby Plunge. The exhilaration fits the purpose. Let's face it, it just wouldn't be the same if they did this is July. For the last three years, an early winter has frozen the lake near shore, so they use a temporary dock and cut a hole in the ice, allowing the plungers to go in one at a time. They say the chilly immersion itself is life changing, if not life-ending, as cancer all too often has been.
"I like to jump in because cancer changed my life forever. Before that, I thought I was invincible, and I wasn't," said Lyndy Burdet, a cancer survivor.
Maybe not invincible, but the Willoughby Plunge leaves them tougher -- and ready to help join the fight against cancer.