By John Lynds
Most people wouldn’t dream of spending their birthday jumping into the freezing Boston Harbor on one of the coldest days of 2017 but that’s exactly what Piers Park Sailing Center’s Executive Director Alex DeFronzo did last Saturday.
On his 29th birthday Saturday DeFronzo emerged from PPSC’s trailer dressed in a pink tutu and life vest with a slightly but understandably nervous look on his face. With the air temperatures below zero with the wind-chill PPSC staffers tied a rope around DeFronzo and the brave Executive Director plunged into the bone-numbing harbor from the Sailing Center’s docks.
“I had seen a lot of friends online dedicating their birthday to a fundraiser and decided I wanted to do that for PPSC,” said DeFronzo. “Since I was a kid at PPSC we’ve had a tradition of dunking instructors in the Harbor on their birthday. PPSC had a lot of success this year fundraising with the Shamrock Splash back in March and I thought it might be a good idea to jump in the cold winter water as a fundraiser. “
DeFronzo said he bounced the idea off of some PPSC co-workers and the board of directors.
“I told Mary Cole (board chair) I thought I could raise a couple hundred bucks,” said DeFronzo. “She thought I should shoot for a lot more so I set the goal at $1,000 and told people I would do it in a tutu for $1,500 which seemed like a long-shot.”
DeFronzo was wrong. In total he raised over $2,500 with 41 people donating on Facebook and 10 donating in person or on piersparksailing.org.
“My birthday rolled around and I was anxious, not so much about the cold water but more so about being seen in a tutu,” he joked.
The Harbor doesn’t usually freeze in the cove at Piers Park, but it has been so exceptionally cold this year it has frozen from the shore out about 100 yards.
“I showed up in the morning to cut a hole in the ice with a boat hook,” he said. “My mom and aunt, both of whom are nurses, were on deck to supervise the jump, and PPSC staff tied a rope around me in case they needed to haul me out.”
The jump was quick and DeFronzo was in and out of the water in just a few seconds.
“The water temp was actually about 25 degrees warmer than the air, so the only time I was really cold was on the walk back up the gangway,” he said. “All of us that work at PPSC truly love the program and would do anything for it. I would jump in every day if that’s what it takes for us to thrive and succeed.”
DeFronzo said he plans to jump again this March for the 2018 Shamrock Splash, this time with a big PPSC team by his side and hopes to do his birthday plunge again next year.
“I had a lot of fun doing this December 30 birthday dunk and plan to make it a yearly tradition,” he said.
DeFronzo’s mother, Lorraine DeFronzo, joked that 29 years ago when her son was born she rushed to wrap him in blankets to keep her newborn warm.
“No he’s jumping into a frozen harbor,” she said. “The irony.”