Portsmouth plunge raises thousands for teen battling cancer

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — The frigid temperatures on Monday prompted organizers to cancel or postpone many polar bear plunge events, but about three dozen people in Portsmouth braved the elements for a worthy cause.

With wind chills dipping below zero, the Island Park plunge was the only event of its kind held in Rhode Island on New Year’s Day.

The event raised $4,630 for Hannah Wertens and her family.

The 14-year-old has already battled cancer three times. An aspiring singer, she planned to perform at Monday’s event but had to spend the day at a Boston hospital.

Participants, some of whom don’t even know Hannah, said they wanted to help her family with their bills and start the year on a positive note.

“I had a really rotten 2017 and I’m looking forward to cleanse it off of me and start anew,” Rick North of Portsmouth said.

“A sweet little girl like that, nobody should have to go through that, ever,” he continued. “I’ve got two children of my own. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have them be ill.”

Following the plunge, participants warmed up at the Beachcomber and took part in a raffle, which will also support Hannah’s family.

The West Bay YMCA New Year’s Polar Bear Swim was called off, but those looking to still get wet were able to take part in an indoor swim at the Kent County YMCA.

The Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge at Goddard State Park has been tentatively rescheduled for Jan. 28 at noon.

No other plunges have been rescheduled at this time.