By LIBBY CUDMORE
MILFORD CENTER – This year, the jumpers at the 24th annual Goodyear Lake Polar Bear Jump will be taking the plunge on Saturday, Feb. 16 to help two of their own.
Christina Freeland, a longtime volunteer for the annual event, was recently diagnosed with HyperEosinophilia Syndrome, a very rare blood disease that affects the immune system and all vital organs.
Complications from the disease and treatment, including sepsis, kept her at Bassett Hospital for most of 2018, and continued complications and side effects make daily tasks, including walking, difficult.
Another longtime volunteer, Jason Ogden, a retired New York City police officer and a first responder on 9/11 was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer) in April 2017, had his left kidney removed. But the cancer spread to his lungs, liver and spine, and he is currently going through chemo and radiation treatments.
Freeland and Ogden are two of 15 recipients of this year’s annual Goodyear Lake jump, where hundreds of swimmers brave the frigid waters to raise money for community members, mostly children, fighting debilitating illnesses.
Last year, 250 jumpers raised $128,600, a record. Since the first jump in 1996, more than a million dollars total has been raised to benefit more than 100 recipients.
Also benefitting this year is Michael Lorens, 9, who was born with severe cerebral palsy. In 2017, much of his medical equipment was destroyed in a house fire, leaving him unable to get much of the therapy he needs.
“We are hoping to be back in our rebuilt home by the spring of 2019 and restore Michael’s life and ours back to normal,” his mother wrote in his biography on the jump’s website.
Brittany Parrett, 30, a former bodybuilder, is also a beneficiary after a yet-undiagnosed illness left her unable to walk. She was the focus of a Spectrum News story last November, and because doctors are unable to diagnose her, her insurance will not cover physical therapy or treatments.
Also receiving funds are
• Anthony Weller, 14, who has spina bifida
• Danial Utter, 13, who has spinal muscular atrophy
• Jackson Luci, 3½, who was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Myopathy,a disorder which necrotizes areas of his brain.
• Malcolm Coffin, 4 months, who will soon be undergoing open-heart surgery to fix a ventricular septal defect, an opening between his right and left ventricle. He also has blockages and Phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder.
• Nathanial Baker, 7 months old, who has epilepsy.
• Shay, 10 months, who has panhypopituitarism, which affects the pituitary gland.
• Sofia Margarita Ann Gutierrez, 4 weeks, who required open-heart surgery after birth to fix a rare form of congenital heart disease.
• Trinity O’Connor, 3, was diagnosed with 4 neuroblastoma cancer this past Easter.
• Xavier Novas, struggles with cerebral palsy, asthma and epilepsy.
In addition to the individuals, funds will also go to the Portlandville Methodist Church, the Milford Fire and EMT Department, Catskill Area Hospice and Hopeful Hearts, a new women’s ministry out of the Portlandville Methodist Church, which does monthly community outreach projects.
But for those who prefer to stay dry and warm, there are still two ways to donate directly to the organization. On Sunday, Jan. 27, a Chinese Auction will be held in the gymnasium of the Milford Central School
Additionally, supporters who raise $150 or sponsor a jumper with the same amount – or more! – can get their own “support” t-shirt. Businesses can also have their logos displayed on the shirt.
“I am forever grateful to my Polar Bear & Methodist Church Communities for all the love & support,” Freeland wrote in her post on the Polar Bear Jump website. “I can’t say that enough.”