For many, the blustery return of snow and cold ushers in a disappointing and depressing portion of winter that includes many layers and lots of staying indoors.
There are, though, 30 to 35 brave souls representing Moynagh’s Tavern, for whom basking in the freezing temperatures and celebrating a wintry mix is something they look forward to every year.
Next month, these hardy men and women will join hundreds of others across the state to dive into the Atlantic Ocean and participate in the 18th Polar Plunge, Special Olympics Massachusetts’ largest annual fundraiser.
“We’ve had years where it’s been warm and we almost feel like we’re cheating. We welcome it and are more than happy with the snow and the cold and the below-30-degree temperatures,” said Tim Moynagh, team leader of Moynagh’s Tavern Polar Plunge crew.
On March 5, the group will be very much surrounded by icy waters on the peninsula town of Hull at Nantasket Beach, where the water temperature was a balmy 42 degrees Friday afternoon.
The Moynagh’s team hopes to raise $35,000 through crowdfunding. It had raised $5,158 through Friday.
Starting with a three-man team in 2000, Tim Moynagh said the tavern contingent has raised more than $300,000 heading into its 17th plunge.
“We get a ton of support from all the people involved — our customers, family, friends, everyone. It speaks volumes about all of the people that support us and contribute to our efforts,” he said.
Since 1999, the event has raised more than $3 million for Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Tim and Robert Moynagh are also co-owners of Viriditas, a new cafe at 6 Waldo St., around the corner from Moynagh’s Tavern. [Check out our story on Viriditas here.]
On the same day the Moynagh’s team hits Nantasket Beach, hundreds of others will be jumping into the chilly waves at Revere Beach in Revere. Three other events, all of which are law enforcement Torch Runs, are set for Feb. 13 at Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Feb. 27 at Lake Massapoag in Sharon, and March 6 at Special Olympics Massachusetts headquarters in Marlborough.
Tim Moynagh said this year’s team is full of first-time plungers. When asked how difficult it is to convince someone to dive into close to freezing water for the first time, Moynagh said it typically depends on the person, but in the end, all he has to do is point out the good that has come from the Polar Plunge.
“Some people have to work really hard at talking themselves into it. Other people jump on board freely. When you start to tell people the stories about the other times we’ve done this, people tend to really get into it,” Moynagh said.
“It’s a cool experience that draws you back year after year. You don’t think too much about jumping in after you’ve done it before.”
First-timer Vicky Ni Shoran, a program director for Devereux group homes in Fitchburg, has some nerves about diving in.
“I’m very excited, but very nervous,” said the city resident originally from Dublin, Ireland, “mainly because I can’t swim and I hate seawater. But I’m doing it because I work with special needs kids and this is for the Special Olympics. And [the] Moynagh’s team encouraged me to do it, and they make it seem [like] so much fun.”
Polar Plunge veteran Dan Hickey, an Auburn native and Assumption College graduate, will be taking part in his fourth-straight plunge.
“With everyone together doing it at the same time, you get the adrenaline going and you just have to do it,” the Rutland Central Tree Middle School teacher said.
Each year, the Polar Plunge has a team costume contest. The Moynagh’s Tavern team members dressed up last winter as dwarfs from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” They have yet to vote on this year’s costume.
“I’m interested to find out what the theme will be. I think that’s actually going to make me even more nervous,” Ni Shoran said jokingly.
Moynagh’s Tavern raises much of its Polar Plunge money selling bar snacks for $1 each year round. In October, the team raised an additional $1,000 at its annual Halloween costume party.
“I think the Moynagh’s family itself is a very welcoming family. And the business is very welcoming and very involving of everyone,” Ni Shoran said. “Particularly with their efforts for the Special Olympics, it’s not just a one-time-during-the-year event. They have drives going all year long. It’s always communicated to their customers.
“That’s just really impressive to see,” Ni Shoran added.
“The event means a lot to all of us,” Hickey said. “They’ve been doing it for a very long time, before even many of us started doing it. It’s something that they’ve been really involved in and that they raise money all year for. It’s something that the whole family and everyone that’s involved at the bar is really passionate about.”
To contribute to Special Olympics Massachusetts’ Polar Plunge and support the Moynagh’s Tavern team, go to the team’s donation page.