Brave souls gear up for Fenwick Freeze to support town's guards

The lifeguards of Fenwick Island – some of the finest in the state and surrounding region – have for years been representing Sussex County at the national lifeguard championships. And, for nearly a decade, residents, homeowners, family members and friends have been coming together to support Fenwick’s finest each New Year’s Day with the Fenwick Freeze.

Participants brave the winter chill for a brief dip in the ocean – and they’ll be at it again this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 – with proceeds from the ever-growing event raised for the Fenwick Island lifeguards and their competition fund.

“The whole idea started about nine years ago,” stated Rebecca McWilliams, a member of the Fenwick Island Beach Committee, which helps to organize the event. “A group of friends would hold a progressive dinner on the bayside, and they decided to start the tradition of jumping into the ocean.”

The small handful of friends passed around word of their daring dip, and the following year, the Fenwick Freeze was born.

Since its start, involvement has been increasing each year, with more than 100 participants bounding into the ocean on the first of the year.

“We’ve got some great lifeguards here,” said McWilliams, “and it’s really nice to be able to do something like this to support them. These competitions, sometimes held in California, can be expensive to get to, and, at times, the lifeguards would have to go out and raise the money on their own.”

In recent years, the beach committee has assembled other activities to help the guards with that funding. A summer bonfire fundraiser, situated around the Fourth of July holiday, and the Turkey Trot, a town-wide 5K to complement the Thanksgiving holiday, each have grown in numbers, but the Fenwick Freeze still remains the town’s flagship benefit for the Fenwick Island lifeguards.

“Fortunately,” McWilliams noted, “weather has cooperated with us for the most part, but even one year when we got a little rain, we still had a lot of people come out for the Freeze. We’ve got some die-hard people in Fenwick, and this year, we want to get even more people involved.”

Proceeds from the event not only help with traveling expenses for the town’s guards, but also assists them in the purchase of equipment needed in the summertime to protect vacationers and beachgoers.

“Events like the Turkey Trot, the Fourth of July bonfire and the Fenwick Freeze have really become staples in our community,” said Fenwick Island Lifeguard Captain Tim Ferry. “People are starting to design their vacations around the bonfire, and we’re getting more involvement around the holiday seasons, too.

“It’s really nice to see the support from our residents, homeowners and visitors,” he added. “The guards here are really appreciative of what the Beach Committee has done. We try each year to give them a good product and, in turn, they help us out, too. It’s really a great event.”

The Fenwick Freeze will take place at Bayard Street in Fenwick Island on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. Registration will be open at Fenwick Island Town Hall on Thursday, Dec. 29, and Friday, Dec. 30, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. both days. Early registration costs $20 per individual, $16 per person for groups of two to four people, and $12 per person in groups of five to eight. Day-of registration will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at Bayard Street and will cost $25 per individual, $20 per person in groups of two to four and $15 per person in groups of five to eight.

Participants will receive a 2012 Fenwick Freeze T-shirt, and hot chocolate will be available at the Freeze, courtesy of Perks Café in The Pottery Place. A warm-up exercise will also take place just before the dip. As an added safety precaution, Bethany Beach Fire Department EMTs and their ambulance service will be on hand.

For more information about the Eighth Annual Fenwick Freeze, including registration forms, stop by the Fenwick Island Town Hall or visit