ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - If you saw a bunch of firefighters jump off the wharf in Annapolis Royal at noon on Saturday, it wasn’t another one of their water rescue operations.
They were raising money for the department after a Victoria Beach lobster fisherman issued the very lucrative challenge to plunge into the 3.5C Annapolis Basin. He’d give them $100 per splash plus $1,000 from his own jump.
With their Zodiac in the water, fire trucks on the wharf, and a couple hundred spectators on hand to watch the Feb. 17 event, firefighters ditched their warm turnout gear for shorts and T-shirts and dove into the frigid basin to the loud cheers of the onlookers.
Family and friends stood by with towels and blankets as the soaked and shivering firefighters climbed up the three ladders they’d secured to the wharf. Other firefighters helped them up over the top as they made quick time up the rungs.
Firefighter Andy Sharpe was dolled up in a Raggedy Anne-type dress complete with apron and blonde wig when he made his plunge. While Sharpe survived no problem, the costume was bedraggled when he got topside again.
Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department Chief Malcolm Frances helped coordinate things on the wharf in preparation for the event, calling the Zodiac in closer and making sure its crew was ready with lifesavers if necessary. And more than a few observers speculated about the heart-stopping potential of the cold water.
The whole spectacle lasted about three minutes and was part of the Live Well Challenge started by Todd Newell from Cape Sable Island who jumped in the Live Well of his fishing boat where lobsters are kept and promised $1,000 to the families in the tragic Jan. 7 Pubnico Head house fire that left four children dead. He challenged three friends to do the same and the fundraiser grew from there, helping numerous causes, and eventually reaching Victoria Beach and lobster fisherman Chris Hudson, president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisheries Association.
“I was challenged to jump by Tyler Morrison when he did his jump down at Victoria Beach wharf,” said Hudson when everyone gathered back at the fire hall to warm up with freshly brewed coffee. “He challenged me to jump so I thought it would be kind of fun. A lot of the fellas are donating half their money to the fire department and the other half to other charities. So I called Malcolm and said I’d give all my thousand dollars to the fire department if a bunch of the boys will jump. I thought it would be kind of a fun event. They’d get some extra money if I paid for each of them to jump, plus a couple of my crew members jumped so I paid for them. A good fundraiser for the fire department.”
Hudson saved his jump until the Feb. 17 event in Annapolis Royal, so he and his crew made the plunge alongside the firefighters.
Nobody actually counted up how many people jumped, so a review of a video was done at the fire hall with 20 splashes counted. It turned out 17 firefighters jumped, so math was done and Hudson made out a cheque to the ARVFD for $3,100 on the spot.
“A good little donation to the fire department,” Hudson said. “That’ll give them a good kick start for the year, and I think there’s been a bunch of the other fishermen, a handful of them have donated let’s say half a thousand to the fire department as well through all this (Live Well Challenge). It’s a good thing for the community.”
“It’s good to be crazy every once in a while,” said Chief Frances, referring to the funds a bit of fun can generate. He said the money raised would go towards a piece if equipment, probably a new truck.
“It kind of happened so quick we really didn’t have time to think about where the money was going to go,” said the chief. “Chris called me a week and a half ago, so I returned the call to him to get this thing set up and that night at the fire hall I brought it up to the guys and they all jumped on board. So Matthew (Smith) ran with it with Chris after that.”
Smith helped organize the day, and made sure that everybody, including the public knew about it.
“We’re very happy with how many people from the public turned out,” Smith said. “We didn’t know how many were going to show, so we’re very happy with the community support. We had a young guy with a boot collecting money, and we had our own boot. We have yet to count that up buts it’s been a really good day.”
It turns out four-year-old Cooper, dressed in his own turnout gear, collected $456. The other boot set up at the wharf, collected $444.65 for a grand total of $900.65 from the public. Add that to the $3,100 from Hudson and it was a $4,000 day for the ARVFD.