Swimmers brave frigid conditions to jump into lake to raise money

FARMINGTON — Although it was sunny, the temperature in Farmington at 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day was 26 degrees, and the wind was blowing out of the west at 20 mph, resulting in a wind chill factor that likely was somewhere in the teens, if not lower.

But that didn’t stop approximately 60 hardy souls from donning a bathing suit and plunging headlong into the frigid waters of Lake Farmington to help raise money for the nonprofit Four Corners Home for Children.

The Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser, organized by Farmington real estate agent Dave Dailey, raised at least $1,000, and Dailey was awaiting confirmation on the donation of a few thousand dollars more.

That was thanks to the five dozen or so participants who ponied up $10 apiece to take part, along with such sponsors as Three Rivers Estates Senior Living and Memory Care and the Thomas Dailey Group real estate agency.

“It was a good turnout,” Dailey said afterward while warming himself and changing into dry clothes in a small camping trailer. “I can’t wait to see what happens next year. There are a lot of crazies in this town.”

Event organizer Dave Dailey, left, emerges from Lake Farmington on New Year's Day during the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser while Devin Neeley, in blue shirt, charges into the water.

Dailey didn’t lead the charge into Lake Farmington, but he wasn’t far behind the first few people to go running into the water. A chorus of hoots and hollers went up as participants sprinted down the sandy beach, which was dusted with snow, but the noise only grew louder as the people hit the water and reacted to the shock.

Dailey was already emerging from the lake and was wading back to shore when Devin Neeley, the public relations and film manager for San Juan County, was running into the water and caught his eye.

Clara Vanderhoven runs down the snow-covered beach at Lake Farmington on New Year's Day during the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser, becoming the first participant to hit the water.

“I hate you, Dave!” he yelled, a broad grin slicing across his face.

“I hate me, too!” Dailey responded, gasping for breath as he hyperventilated from the cold.

Neeley, who has worked part time for the Four Corners Home for Children for the past few years, said the money raised through the event will be a big help to the organization.

“It’s an organization that does a lot of good work in the community,” he said. “I appreciate people in the community being ready to kick off (2022) in this manner.”

Organizer Dave Dailey was all smiles after the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser on New Year's Day at Farmington Lake raised at least $1,000 for the Four Corners Home for Children.

Dailey plans to make the fundraiser an annual event, and he was all smiles once it was over. But he didn’t candy coat the nature of his brief swim in Lake Farmington, saying it was every bit as bad as he expected.

Even worse was being exposed to the wind once he got out of the water, Dailey said. Nevertheless, he likely would have felt a whole lot colder if he hadn’t been joined in his misery by so many other participants.

Two of the participants in the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser for the Four Corners Home for Children step out of the frigid waters of Lake Farmington.

“A huge thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said, alluding to everyone who took part. “It was great to see our community get together.

Dailey was still fighting the shivers as he prepared to head home, where he already had a plan for getting warm.

Approximately 60 people took part in the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser at Lake Farmington on New Year's Day, helping raise money for the Four Corners Home for Children.

“I put a bunch of wood in the fireplace at home before I left,” he said. “And I’m going to take a hot shower.”

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.

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