Ocean City Today

Despite bitter cold, Penguin Swim draws several hundred

Twenty-fourth annual New Year’s Day event fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital
By Managing Editor, Lisa Capitelli | Jan 04, 2018
Photo by: Lisa Capitelli About 340 participants registered for the 24th annual New Year’s Day Penguin Swim, a fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin. They braved the 39-degree ocean, which was not as cold as the 23-degree air temperature, which was 10 degrees with the wind chill.

(Jan. 5, 2018) Despite air temperature of about 23 degrees, with the wind chill about 10 degrees and ocean temperature of 39 degrees, several hundred men, women and even children sprinted into the water for the 24th annual New Year’s Day Penguin Swim, a fundraiser for Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin.

“The event went very well, considering the circumstances with the weather,” said Kam LaBrunda, co-organizer of the event and development analyst for the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation. “Participants and spectators still had a blast enjoying activities in the [Princess Royale] Atrium – carnival games, heated pool, live music and costume contest. Many participants still wore a variety of costumes into the water, despite the frigid temperatures.”

Over the years, the temperature has ranged from the upper 30s and 40s, to a high of nearly 70 degrees.

A total of 340 people registered or checked-in for the swim at the Princess Royale on 91st Street. They were then joined on the beach by about 100 or so guests, who gathered at Bull on the Beach bar and restaurant on 94th Street prior to the event.

At 1 p.m., they ran into the ocean at 91st Street. Some participants just got their feet wet, while others totally submerged their bodies.

This was Ocean City resident Lana Rakutsis’ fifth year taking the plunge.

“It’s totally refreshing. It gives you new energy,” she said. “You leave all of the old energy when you emerge. It’s like you’re newly born. It’s the best feeling ever.”

Craig Kettler of Leesburg, Virginia was the top individual fundraiser, collecting $3,825 for the hospital. This was his 10th time participating in the swim.

It was his 18-year-old son, Ben’s, ninth year. He donated $500 and came in second place in the youth fundraising division. The two have raised about $20,000 for Atlantic General Hospital over the years.

“It’s nice to come out and see the same faces every year. It’s just a fun thing to do,” Craig Kettler said. “The water didn’t feel that bad. It’s about the same temperature as always. It was more the air temperature.”

Kettler said he plans to come back for the 25th anniversary swim.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he added.

Toni Keiser, Atlantic General public relations vice president, has worked for the Berlin hospital for 22 years and has participated in the New Year’s Day event each year. Her 19-year-old son, Tyler, has taken a dip in the ocean since he was a baby. They make it a tradition to do it together.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Keiser said. “When I got in, I said, ‘It’s not that bad, I’ll keep going.’”

She did get a little help from her son, who pushed her in.

“It was worse standing on the beach,” he said.

“It definitely was the coldest. It’s been as warn as 70 degrees. I prefer that,” Toni Keiser said. “It’s just such a heartwarming event. It’s great to see everyone come out.”

The fundraising goal this year was $84,000. As of earlier this week, about $78,000 (net) has been raised, but that number is expected to increase as donations are still being counted.

“Our dollar amounts are very preliminary at this point,” LaBrunda said. “Money still trickles in through February.”

In 23 years, the Penguin Swim has raised about $1.1 million for the hospital.

“Funds raised will go to the many free and low-cost programs and services the hospital and health system provides to our community,” LaBrunda said. “Money raised will allow Atlantic General Hospital and Health System to strengthen programs, enhance services and medical technologies, attract the best clinical staff, fund renovation projects and maintain a healing environment in the coming year. [As well as fund] free health fairs/screenings, flu shot clinics and other mission-driven programs and services.”

The Berlin hospital has been providing health care to residents of Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, as well as Sussex County, Delaware, since May 1993. For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.

Penguin Swim Top Fund-Raisers

Adult Individual

1. Craig Kettler, Leesburg, Virginia ($3,825)

2. Arleen Dinneen, Ellicott City, Maryland ($815)

3. Samantha Ewancio, Berlin ($625)

Community Team

1. OC Ravens Roost 44, Ocean City ($13,602)

2. It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere, Port Jefferson, New York ($1,765)

3. O’Jettskis, Ocean City ($275)


1. Bull on the Beach, Ocean City ($35,000)

2. AGH Poppin’ Penguins, Berlin ($3,080)

3. Blazing Suns, Ocean City ($1,000)

Under 18 Individual

1. Max Ewancio, age 16, Berlin ($725)

2. Ben Kettler, age 18, Leesburg, Virginia ($500)

3. (Tie) Nicholas Gordon, age 14, Berlin; Leila Attia, age 9, Fallston, Maryland ($100)

Youth/Family Team

1. Psychedelic Penguins, Ocean City ($900)

2. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins, Jersey City, New Jersey, ($675)

3. Team Cylc, Snow Hill ($315)

Youngest Penguin: Grant Kesler, Vienna, Virginia, 4 years, 11 months and 3 days

Oldest Penguin: Paul Neal, Selbyville, Delaware, 76 years and 2 days

Costume Contest:

Best Overall Costume: “Rub-A-Dub-Dub-A-Man-In-A-Tub,” Mike Schlegel, Breinigsville, Pennsylvania

Most Spirited: “Pittsburgh Penguin Bobblehead,” Lanch Bucheit, Selbyville,

Most Creative: “Octopus,” Debbie Murosky, Pittston, Pennsylvania

Best Little Penguin: “Army Sergeant,” Tristan Lorditch, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Best Team/Group Costume: McKenna Schlegel and Sienna and Keera Pearce, Breinigsville, Pennsylvania



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